The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the most talented defenses in the game. They have budding superstars in Joey Bosa, Derwin James, and Desmond King. They have pro-bowl caliber players alongside them in Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward, and Denzell Perryman. Now add perhaps the best defensive leader in the game in Thomas Davis.
Davis has tallied over 100 tackles six times. He has been to three pro-bowls and has one all-pro selection. So, Thomas Davis is a really good football player. But, perhaps his greatest trait is his leadership. Davis has proven, over the course of his career, to be an elite leader both on and off the field. Just scan through this article about Davis winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and you will get a good idea of what kind of person came to Los Angeles in the off-season.
But that all happened in the past. Davis is 36 now. So what should Charger fans expect from him? Read on.
On the Field
Thomas Davis has always been a tackling machine, but he isn't as spry as he was early in his career. The good news for the Chargers is that age hasn't seemed to matter to Davis. In fact, his best football has been played since he turned 30.
As I watched tape on Davis, one thing that jumps off the screen is his elite play recognition ability. Take a look at this play from last season against the Cardinals.
In this play, the receiver goes in motion, and Davis follows him over. When the receiver stops to and reverses back, he telegraphs that he is there to help the tackle run-block. Davis recognizes this and explodes through the ball carrier - almost causing a fumble.
You don't need speed and athleticism to make that play. Davis made it with his head, and he's one year smarter this season. Here's another where Davis again, is reading the play, displays great patience, then explodes through the receiver at the perfect moment.
That's tone-setting type stuff. That's the type of play that your defense will rally around, and he can absolutely still make those plays at 36. He may not get 100 tackles this season, but he won't let offensive coordinators and quarterbacks get him out of position.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Davis's biggest impact on the Chargers will likely be his leadership. His impact has already been felt and we're only a week into training camp. Listen to Joey Bosa talk about Davis calling him out in day four of practice (1:08).
It is clear that Davis has established himself as a leader in that locker room, and the team is better for it. Bosa is one of those guys that could be considered a leader, and even he has acknowledged Davis's role.
My hope is that Derwin James attaches himself to Davis and soaks up as much as he can while he can. Their young defensive stars will need a leader and James seems to have that "it" factor. He can't have a better teacher to help him in leading a locker room than Thomas Davis.
If Davis, can manage to rub off on the Charger's young stars, his signing will be one that pays dividends long after he retires.
So what should the Chargers expect from Thomas Davis? A physical, tone-setting, cerebral workhorse who will show their young superstars what it means to be a leader. I'll take that.