Ask Gus Bradley about Thomas Davis and the defensive coordinator can't help but bust out in an ear-to-ear grin. In fact, it remains plastered on his face long after talking about the All-Pro linebacker the Chargers inked to a two-year deal early in free agency.
Can you really blame him?
After all, the Bolts are getting one of the preeminent linebackers in the game over the past 14 years, who shows no sign of slowing down despite turning 36 late last month. In fact, Bradley expects Davis to be every bit as effective with the Chargers as he was over his lengthy career with the Carolina Panthers in which he ranks first in franchise history with 1,258 career tackles.
One look at last year's film proves that point.
"Thomas Davis is obviously a guy who has played many years in the NFL, and it shows when you put on the tape," he explained. "His instincts and ability to play fast really jump out at you. Some of the things that I learned about Thomas Davis is just how physical he played, especially against the run game. We always knew that he could run. His matchups against tight ends and running backs, that was always a plus. But his ability to play the run, and just how physical he was with his instincts, that really jumps out at us."
Those are far from the only qualities that flashed.
Bradley rattled off a few others, but there's one that clearly struck a chord the more he watched Davis' film.
"The first thing we look at and critique is effort," he explained. "That's a big saying in our room. And his effort, it's off the charts. Sometimes as players get older in the league, they get more experience and there's a turn where they rely more on their football intelligence and understanding of the game. Maybe it's because you start to see them lose their legs a little bit. But that's not the case with Thomas. It's unbelievable. I give him credit because he is still playing with a speed that really jumps out at you on tape, as well as that effort."
Bradley and Davis have exchanged texts ever since the linebacker officially put pen to paper, and while it's just words on a screen, the defensive coordinator can sense the raw excitement the new addition has over becoming a Bolt.
"I know he's working out hard in Florida, and just the excitement from him (is palpable)," he said. "I mean, think about it for him. All he's really known is one place. When he goes in the building to go get an orange juice, he knows right where to go. He knows right where his locker's been. Now all those things are new for him. But there's that excitement, too, that comes with it. It can be (reinvigorating)."
As if that wasn't enough, it's impossible to discuss Davis and not bring up the intangibles he brings to the table. He's clearly known as one of the top playmakers at the position over the years, but his impact in the locker room is also among the best in the league.
"This guy is internally motivated, and he elevates the play of everybody around him," Bradley said. "That's hard to find. That quality and trait in a player is rare. So having him in the locker room and what he'll mean to our the defensive unit, it's all about the standard. And we have a high, high, high standard. So any player who can come in and talk to our guys about raising that standard, and showing what it looks like, that's awesome. I'm so excited to get him into the building because I think he'll have great influence, and his ability to lead is something that our whole team can look at."