With Chris Cooley expected to miss possibly four weeks of action while letting his injured left knee heal, an even bigger opportunity presents itself for fourth-year tight end Fred Davis, who takes over as the team’s starter for the time being.
With Cooley ailing, Davis has taken the bulk of the first-team snaps in practice and is playing at a high level. Davis, who reported to camp having lost 15 pounds and boasting a new-found dedication to the game, has drawn the praise of his coaches.
It was expected that the Redskins would use more two-tight end sets to take advantage of their two talented players at that position. Cooley said last week that he and Davis didn’t see themselves as competing against each other, but competing together for the good of the team.
Now, however, Davis is prepared to shoulder the load.
“You don’t never wanna see nobody hurt, but you can never be afraid of opportunity,” said Davis, who last season recorded 21 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. “It’s your chance to show what you’re worth. For me, I’m a player and I grow and I play and every game, I feel like I’ll be better. Technique-wise, blocking-wise, route-wise. It feels good. Who wants to be a backup forever? It’s just my competitiveness and my drive.”
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Davis has been in this situation before. In 2009, Davis started 10 games with Cooley lost for the season with a broken foot. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Davis recorded 48 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns — all career highs.
Now two years older and more knowledgeable both of the NFL and the Redskins’ system, having a full season of it under his belt, Davis is playing with confidence in practice. Meanwhile, coaches and his quarterback are seeing him as more dependable.
“Fred’s always taken it seriously,” Mike Shanahan said. “I can say, though, that he’s really had a heck of a camp. He came [to training camp] in excellent shape and hopefully continues to do well.”
Said quarterback Rex Grossman: “Fred totally understands what he’s supposed to do on every play and how to run routes. Now, he’s starting to put his own personality into it a little bit: how he runs things and some of the option routes. He always gets his depth on his routes. He’s so fast. It’s only a matter of a time before he’s a breakout star in this league.”