The Los Angeles Rams made a series of high-profile defensive acquisitions during the offseason. Defensive end Ryan Davis was not one of them.
Davis signed a one-year contract two days before training camp started, an addition that could prove to be just as significant as signing defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and trading for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
"I was on my way to Detroit, actually, for a workout, and Arizona called," Davis said. "And then as soon as LA called, I told my agent: 'Come on, we gotta go. We got to make this happen.'"
Davis' intuition was right on, and he has found himself working extensively with the starting defense as an outside linebacker during the first three weeks of training camp. Coach Sean McVay has frequently identified Davis as one of the early standouts, though the praise apparently has not filtered down to the seven-season veteran who last played for Buffalo.
"I'm not looking for any kind of cheers or pat on the back from the coaches, but if they are fans of me, then obviously that's a good thing," Davis said. "My thing is going out there and not letting the guys down next to me. Just giving it my best and playing hard."
The quick transition Davis has made at outside linebacker is all the more important because the Rams must replace both starters there after trading Robert Quinn to Miami in March and not re-signing free agent Connor Barwin.
Quinn and Barwin combined for 13.5 sacks last season. Davis has flashed pass-rush ability with 14 career sacks, including 6 1/2 in 2014 for Jacksonville. Getting to the quarterback has always come naturally for Davis, but he is adjusting well to the coverage responsibilities of his new position. Recruited to Bethune-Cookman University as a tight end before moving to defense, Davis showed he still has soft hands during a post-practice session Saturday night catching balls from a JUGS machine.
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"Some things you just don't lose. Hands, I just don't lose 'em," Davis said. "I'm outside linebacker now, so I have opportunity to get my hands on the ball. I want to be able to cash in."
Instead, the biggest change for Davis has been rebuilding his body to handle the athletic demands of playing outside linebacker. He reported to training camp at 280 pounds, which was fine by the Rams, but it quickly became evident to Davis that he had to drop weight.
"They liked the way I moved when I came in," Davis said. "I came in and ran (the conditioning test) perfectly fine and was moving around perfectly fine, but for me personally I knew I have to shed weight to be able to keep this up the whole year. I'm down 10 pounds already from the start of camp and I'm looking to lose another 10, 15."
Davis is still surprised by his sudden elevation to the first-unit defense, which has confirmed his belief that the Rams were the best fit.
"I know I had to switch over to Sam linebacker, but that's really why I came. The defense, the Wade Phillips defense is a good fit," Davis said. "I've been talking with the Rams the whole offseason. We kind of sensed that this is where I wanted to be, and we went back and forth about everything, but I was just glad to be here. The Rams, LA just made a ton of sense for me as a player. The atmosphere, the city, everything about it just felt right."
NOTES: Tight end Gerald Everett (sprained shoulder) will miss at least another week, McVay said. Everett was at practice Saturday with his left arm in a sling.