We're far too early into Training Camp to make any bold proclamations. You just don't do that until the pads go on – Tuesday for the Eagles. One thing is clear, though, in the mind of second-year linebacker Davion Taylor: He can see clearly now. That in itself is a huge step forward when Taylor came in as a raw prospect and it showed. He played only 35 snaps in the Eagles' defense and, truth be told, was chomping at the bit to get things rolling for 2021.
"I feel way more comfortable ever since we had OTAs (Organized Team Activities). It helped me because I was able to get on the field in the spring," Taylor said. "I was able to start practicing the plays and get comfortable in the scheme. I feel like it helped me a lot going into this Training Camp and I feel it helped me going into the season."
Taylor, if you remember, played only one game of high school football due to his religious beliefs, and even after starting his football career in community college and taking a big jump at the University of Colorado for two seasons, he entered the NFL as a raw prospect. He could run and he was a great athlete, but his football IQ lagged. The Eagles knew this when they selected Taylor with the 103rd overall selection (third round) in the 2020 NFL Draft, so the fact that he played just 32 defensive snaps to go along with 117 snaps on special teams was expected.
In Year 2, things are different.
As a rookie, Taylor didn't have any on-field work in the spring. It was all virtual, right? The Eagles had four weeks together on the field this past spring. They are in the heat of Training Camp now. There were no preseason games last summer and now there are three. Each rep Taylor takes is a plus and he's viewing it that way.
"I'm more of a hands-on guy. I have to be out here and gain experience, make my mistakes, and then go back and correct them," he said. "COVID pushed me back a little bit more and it helped me learn how to study film correctly and be able to do those virtual meetings and learn from that. This year, I asked my coach (Nick Rallis) for extra meetings, I studied more film at least three or four times a week. I did extra stuff on the field – a lot of extra things to make sure that when I got to Training Camp I would be comfortable and wouldn't be overthinking.
"I could go out and be who I want to be."
Taylor has taken some reps with the No. 1 defense, part of the coaching staff's rotation to get the best look at the personnel. The real test in the summer will come when the Patriots and Jets are part of joint practices and, for sure, when the three preseason games take place. Taylor has been working on his eyes, making sure he doesn't cheat and take chances with looks. Eye discipline is so important because quarterbacks see everything. If a defensive player tries to cheat with his eyes, it's trouble.
The positive steps are obvious watching Taylor. He's moving with so much more confidence and that's allowing him to take advantage of his great athletic ability. Once Taylor gets it, and the Eagles think that's going to happen over time, he has a chance to be a player who flows to the football and uses his burst and speed to make plays.
"My mindset going into the offseason was to make sure my football IQ was growing and I wanted to make sure my fundamentals were correct with a new coaching staff coming in," Taylor said. "I focused on the things that they wanted me to get better at. That's what I was working on this offseason."
Leaning on veteran Eric Wilson to learn the defense and answer questions, Taylor is trending in the right direction. What that means for playing time and his role in the defense remains to be seen, but there is no doubt Taylor is feeling better about himself and his game. The hoped-for jump from Year 1 to Year 2 is happening, and Taylor is encouraged.
"It's something I'm working on. I know I have a lot to learn," he said. "Every day, I just want to go out and do my job, do what the coaches ask me to do. I figure if I do that, the rest will take care of itself."