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Steelers Film Room: Putting it mildly, Carlos Davis is a very raw prospect

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 7th round draft pick is a project.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The Steelers waited till the 7th round to draft a defensive lineman, and as Dave Schofield pointed out in a recent article, the Steelers draft a lot of late round defensive lineman. Carlos Davis is a similar pick to many others the Steelers have made, a big athlete that has a lot to learn before he’s ready for NFL action. Let’s go to the tape.

Run Defense

Carlos Davis played all over the line for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, playing 0 tech(nose), 1 and 3 tech (DT), 5-tech (3-4 DE), and even 7-tech (edge rusher). There has been a decent amount of speculation that Davis will fill the nose tackle role Javon Hargrave did in the Steelers 3 man front.

Carlos Davis (#96) is in the middle of the D-line, lined up right across from the center, in 0-tech.

Davis consistently struggles against double teams, getting driven upright and pushed back.

But he doesn’t do a whole lot better against single blockers.

Davis is playing 1-tech here as the left DT, second lineman from the top, third if you count the standing edge.

Davis fires of the line here, but you can see how the first contact is won by the center, who stands him up and moves him out of the run lane. The running back for Maryland is Anthony McFarland Jr in this clip.

Davis is playing left DT here, looks like 4-tech, second lineman from the bottom.

Davis is trying to move laterally with the play here, but he’s getting driven back, and then the center blocks him from the side and he has no impact on the play. One of the things that was mentioned in a lot of the scouting reports on him was his short arms and the problems that causes him. You can see how when Carlos Davis gets into the chest of the guard the guard gets his hands on both of Davis’s shoulders and steers him while driving him back, and has no trouble disengaging from him.

Pass Rush

Carlos Davis ran an impressive 40 yard dash, and frequently gets a good burst out of his stance, so you would expect him to be a better pass rusher than run defender.

That speed shows up when Davis is able to get quick penetration.

Davis is the right DT on this play, second lineman from the top.

This looks like a stunt, but Carlos Davis fires out of his stance to the inside, and the guard is not expecting it, and you can see Carlos Davis’s speed here as he runs through the guard’s best attempt to save his QB with a holding penalty but can’t prevent the sack.

This is the best clip for Carlos Davis’s upside. If he can round the rest of his game into form, that acceleration will be a weapon.

Davis is the left DT, second lineman from the top in 3-tech.

Again his explosiveness gets the best of the blocking scheme, the center is a little slow reading the rush and Carlos Davis gets past him. This play does a great job of showing how easily he can be redirected, and his lack of agility as he is pushed past the QB and out of the play. He will fire off the line low into blockers, but when he starts running he’s really high, and that cancels his strength.

Davis at 3-tech again, second lineman from the bottom.

This is one of his better rushes, he manages to connect with the blocker without getting too high, and is able to drive the guard back into the pocket before getting taken to the ground.

Take a better look

His lack of arm length really hurts him here, as he drives the guard back, but leans too hard, and the guard is able to get his arm behind his momentum and take him to the ground.

One place I think Davis will be able to succeed with the Steelers is on stunts, the Steelers like to run stunts with the DT going outside the edge rusher. They do it a lot with Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward, and I think Carlos Davis could be a real weapon on those plays.

Davis is the right DT, second lineman from the top

This isn’t well executed, but look at the speed Davis shows once he gets free. You can see the quarterback realize the DT is stunting outside, and then realize how fast he is coming, and he ends up throwing the ball away.

You might look at that and wonder why Carlos Davis didn’t play DE more, with that kind of size and speed.

He did play DE a decent bit, on this play he’s the left end, the lineman to the top of the screen.

Look at those hands. This is what you got with Carlos Davis on the edge, a slap fight. This is one of the best clips for seeing it, but it shows up most of the time he’s outside, he is hand fighting, but with no purpose or plan to it, and it ends up looking like this.

One of the things he gets credit for in scouting is awareness to get his hands up in the passing lane.

Davis is the right DT on this play, second lineman from the bottom.

You can see he sees the QB’s eyes and times up his jump well, just can’t get a hand on the ball.

Often he is too content to watch the QB when his initial rush fails though, and he ends up just not having any impact on the play.

Davis is the left DT, second from the top.

Davis is reading the play here, denying the QB a lane to escape, but he gets no push at all and the quarterback has a big pocket to stand in until he panics and leaves it when he doesn’t need to. When you are 1v1 and the guard is blocking you with one arm and looking around to see if there is someone else to block. . . that’s not a good look.


Carlos Davis is the latest in a long line of defensive lineman with a lot of negatives in their film, to go with a few attributes that could be real weapons if they can improve the rest of their game enough. The Steelers like taking these guys and giving them a chance to win a spot at the bottom of the depth chart or the practice squad and see if they can be the next Brett Keisel.

Carlos Davis was a four-year starter at Nebraska, and it is strange to see a player with that experience level come into the draft like this. He’s a raw athlete who needs to learn how to play his position, a position he played extensively the last 4 years. That’s a big sign he isn’t likely to make it, but that’s why a player with his first step and athleticism is available with the 232nd pick.