Davion Taylor is young, talented, raw in his football experience, eager to be a sponge and absorb every bit of teaching from the coaching staff – and he is on the rise. Taylor, a 2020 third-round draft pick who played sparingly in high school before walking on in community college and then moving to the University of Colorado, is one of the reasons the Eagles waived veteran Eric Wilson on Wednesday.
The team wants to see more and more of Taylor and the other young Eagles' linebackers, a plan that has actually been in the works the last couple of weeks. As part of a transitioning roster, noted early in the regular season here, the Eagles are turning to youth. They've peppered the lineup with younger players throughout both sides of the ball and have accumulated enviable draft capital for next spring – four selections in the first two rounds, with potentially three of those picks in the first round, among 10 total picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Taylor is one of the more intriguing young players who is seeing more time. He is a tremendous athlete who tests off the charts in every category – the 230-pounder was an All-Pac-12 selection at Colorado in the 100-meter dash, if you can imagine that – and who has advanced his understanding of the defensive scheme to the point where the Eagles want to see his progress measured on the field in game action.
"I'm ready to take up my opportunity and take advantage of that and continue to get better every week," Taylor said on Wednesday from the NovaCare Complex. "I've always had confidence in myself and just knowing that the coaches and the staff have confidence in me gives me more confidence. It allows me to play even better on the field. I'm just going to continue to learn from the coaches and be the best player I can be."
Taylor played in only one high school game due to his family's religious beliefs, so he would practice throughout the week and then watch the games on the weekend. Those lack of game reps stunted his instincts for the game, so every day is a catch-up for Taylor, a new learning experience. The Eagles knew going in with Taylor that he would require some patience and nurturing, so the organization understood his big picture after a rookie season in which Taylor played 32 snaps on the defense and ended the year on Injured Reserve.
A coaching change brought a new defense and a new learning challenge, but Taylor threw himself into the classroom and the film room and slowly, very slowly, began delving deep into the nuances of one of the game's most challenging positions.
Now here we are, entering Week 9, and Taylor says he's figuring it out. The puzzle pieces are fitting, slowly and steadily and surely.
"Actually being on the field has helped me a lot," Taylor said. "The last couple of games I've been on the field, I'm starting to learn how the game is going. I'm starting to get used to the speed. I'm recognizing plays before they actually come. I can see myself getting better and better each week even if it's becoming more comfortable with the small details.
"I just continue to grow, and I'm really excited about it."
Taylor's snap count has grown as he recovered from a nagging preseason calf injury – he played 24 snaps in Carolina, 37 against Tampa Bay, 36 at Las Vegas, and a career-most 39 in Sunday's win over Detroit. Taylor's confidence is growing by the rep and his instincts for the game are improving. It's tough to make up for lost time, but Taylor's great work ethic and his performance have fit right in with a young linebacker corps that includes T.J. Edwards, Alex Singleton, Genard Avery, Shaun Bradley, and Patrick Johnson.
The Eagles are moving forward and Taylor's development is a key part of the plan.
"We're excited about Davion," Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said a few weeks ago. "He keeps improving."
He's improving because of all the hard work Taylor is investing in the film room and throughout the practice day – including extra technique work in the post-practice period. To understand where Taylor's starting point is, it is important to remember that talent level is only one part of the equation in the NFL: He came into the league without much of a foundation at all. Taylor was all athletic ability and very little football acumen.
He's catching up rapidly. And that's what is so exciting about what the future holds for Taylor. There are going to be inevitable bumps along the way, but once Taylor puts it all together ...
"It's coming, but I have a whole lot of work to do and I'm enjoying every step," he said. "I'm learning when to take that extra step during a tackle and when not to take that extra step. Every game, I'm just catching every little thing that I know I need to work on during practice and throughout the week.
"I'm really excited about it. I was real raw last year. This year, I'm still learning each week. It's exciting because I know how good I can become. I'm still learning. There are still some things I still haven't learned. There are things I'm going to learn this week and next week. The more I learn, the better I can become. I never saw it as a bad thing that I was raw. I saw it as an opportunity because I can get better and I can see how good I can become in this league."