The strides Davion Taylor were making midway through his second NFL season were obvious to all. His game started taking off in mid-October of 2021 - in a five-game stretch starting with the home game against Tampa Bay, Taylor's playing time increased and his productivity boomed. Taylor recorded six tackles against Las Vegas, five against Detroit in a dominating defensive performance, eight tackles against the Chargers, and seven tackles along with two forced fumbles in Denver.
"I was feeling great," Taylor says now. "Things were slowing down for me and I was acting instinctively, not thinking. I just felt better and better, more a part of what we were doing defensively. I felt things were going in the right direction."
But in the late-November win against New Orleans, only seven snaps into the game, Taylor suffered a sprained knee and was placed on Injured Reserve, ultimately for the remainder of the season. His promising second year ended on the sidelines. A third-round draft choice in 2020, Taylor set out to make sure the injury bug wouldn't bite him anytime soon.
"It's a physical game so you know that things are going to happen, but my focus now is to do everything I can do to stay on the field and stay healthy," Taylor said shortly before the Eagles finished their Organized Team Activities in the spring. "I feel I'm doing what's right. I'm ready to be at my best and to compete, because I know nothing is going to be given to me. I've got to earn it, every bit of it."
Taylor's story is a remarkable one that maybe you've heard before - his family's religious beliefs prevented him from taking part in Friday night high school football games, so Taylor practiced all week and then played a grand total of one game at South Pike (Mississippi) High School. He attended community college before earning a scholarship to play at the University of Colorado and impressed enough with his improvement on the field and his outstanding athletic ability and work ethic to become a high NFL draft pick.
As a rookie, Taylor saw action in 12 games, mostly on special teams. Last season, though, Taylor made that hoped-for leap and started six of the nine games he played before the injury.
Now? Well, the linebacker picture is totally different. The Eagles signed veteran Kyzir White in free agency after White led the Chargers with 144 total tackles and set career highs in tackles for loss (7), quarterback pressures (8), quarterback hits (4), forced fumbles (2), and interceptions (2). In the 2022 NFL Draft, the team used a third-round draft pick on Nakobe Dean, the leader of Georgia's National Championship-winning defense.
"We have competition, but that's what every player wants," Taylor said. "It's going to bring out the best in all of us. We all work really well together and we're out there helping each other. It's a long, long season. We're all going to have chances to contribute to the defense.
"For me, it's just about picking up where I left off last season. I had so much confidence in what I was doing, so being out there in the defense for a second straight season I feel like I know where I'm supposed to be and I know how to get there. I can use my tools - my speed, my length, technique - and make an impact."
That's exactly what the Eagles are counting on Taylor to do this season. He helps in coverage with his speed and closing ability. He can run down the football anywhere on the field. Taylor has improved his strength and physicality and helps against the run. On special teams, he's a blur with the way he runs to the ball.
There is a lot to work with him, and Taylor knows it. Staying on the field is what it's all about for him.
"I'm going to be physical and I'm going to play my game. I honestly can't wait to get the pads on and play in this defense and earn my spot," Taylor said. "I'm excited to rise to the challenge. When we get back here (for Training Camp) I'm going to be dialed in. Ready to go and get out there and play my best football."