Redskins Put a Lot in Tight End Davis's Hands

"My job is to hold on to the ball," said second-year tight end Fred Davis, who fumbled twice Thursday in the 23-0 loss to the Ravens. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whenever the ball found its way into Fred Davis's hands, an onslaught of words quickly found its way into his ears. With each touch at Saturday morning's practice, tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim made sure Davis heard the message. Again and again.

"Hold on to it!" he'd yell. "Cover it up!" "Protect the ball!"

Davis, who fumbled twice in the Washington Redskins' preseason opener Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens, says he didn't really need a reminder -- it's not like he's trying to fumble. "Fumbling, to me, it feels like someone just died," Davis said. But the coach's bellowing underscores the hopes and expectations the tight end and his suddenly suspect hands carry.

In Coach Jim Zorn's first season, he didn't have the personnel to run his preferred brand of a high-powered, multifaceted West Coast offense. One key to executing such an offense this season is the Redskins' ability to have two tight ends on the field at the same time.

Davis was one of the team's three second-round draft picks in 2008, but he had minimal impact as a rookie. Coaches are counting on him to play a bigger role this year. The team has spent a lot of time these past two weeks experimenting with Davis and starting tight end Chris Cooley.

"We're going to basically put the 11 guys on the field who give us the best opportunity on offense," Cooley said. "If both Fred and I are a part of that, then that's great. But I think we want all 11 guys to be able to contribute and play good football."

But Davis will have to show coaches that he is ready. He didn't do that in the Redskins' first preseason game. In fact, depending on how you view it, it was Davis who largely fumbled away the team's best chance of making it a competitive game.

In the second quarter, quarterback Todd Collins and the Redskins were in the midst of their longest drive of the night. After crossing the 50-yard line, Collins hit Davis for a 13-yard gain when linebacker Prescott Burgess rocked Davis and jarred the ball free.

"A hit is a hit. I still should've caught it," Davis said. "My job is to hold on to the ball."

Fortunately for the Redskins, Davis recovered the fumble. Unfortunately for the Redskins, the same thing was about to happen again.

Three plays later, on third and 11 from the Ravens 35-yard line, Collins hit Davis with a short pass over the middle. It wasn't a clean catch, though, and it didn't take much for safety Tom Zbikowski to pop the ball loose.

The Ravens recovered the ball on their 31 and scored a touchdown in the closing seconds of the quarter, giving Baltimore a 13-0 halftime lead. That drive was the closest the Redskins came to the end zone all night.

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