It has been a long process. So long, in fact, that even Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis wondered when, or if, everything would come together for him. Just the normal type of doubt that accompanies unfulfilled expectations.
But that guy no longer exists. He has disappeared. In his place, the Redskins’ most productive tight end has emerged, and Davis isn’t interested in stopping at that point. Today, he’s No. 1 on Washington’s roster. Tops in the NFL could be next.
Supremely confident, and with good reason, Davis delivered his second impressive performance in as many games during Sunday’s 22-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field.
Following his strong first act against the New York Giants, Davis led the Redskins with 86 yards on six receptions Sunday. The fourth-year player caught one of quarterback Rex Grossman’s two touchdown passes. Again, Davis was the biggest force in the passing game, making key plays on third down — the down on which tight ends really earn their money.
“Man, I’m killing these dudes,” Davis said of opposing defenses. “I’m killing these dudes on these routes. Guys [his Redskins teammates] are telling me, ‘Slow down’ in the middle of the route. I’m not slowing down. Took me a while to get here.”
Cardinals defensive players struggled to keep up with the speedy Davis, who also often ran past the Giants en route to a team-high 105 yards in the opening victory.
He’s simply too fast for most linebackers and too big for a lot of defensive backs. In football terms, it’s called a bad matchup. Or it’s an extremely favorable one, depending on your perspective.
“Fred’s like a fast receiver at tight end,” Grossman said. “On some of the third downs with Fred, he’s just beating guys that bad.”
Obviously, Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan know what they have. Judging by their use of Davis, they see what seems so clear now: Davis is on the verge of being one of the best in the game at his position. By the end of this season, he could be second to none.
And since Davis’s production is finally matching his potential, it’s time for the Shanahans to ride the guy even more. He’s ready for whatever they can throw at him. Davis has arrived. Let him show all he can do.
“That door Fred couldn’t get through before?” top wide receiver Santana Moss said. “Fred done knocked that door down.”
Chris Cooley’s knee problem provided an assist.
With the longtime starter hobbled through training camp and the preseason, Davis knew he would get an opportunity. Coaches made it known they needed Davis, which Davis appreciated hearing.
Davis has immense respect for Cooley as a person and for his accomplishments as a player. Although it was difficult playing behind Cooley ever since the Redskins drafted him, Davis understood the league’s hierarchy.
“Once you’ve proven all the stuff that Chris has proven, going to Pro Bowls, winning games and killing Dallas. . . I mean, that’s who Chris is,” Davis said. “That’s what Chris has done. I knew I had a long way to go before I would ever be considered on the same level as Chris.”
Also, Davis didn’t do all he could to close the gap early on.
He often lacked focus in practice. Coaches said he seemed uninterested in meetings. Davis had a lot to learn about professionalism, “and especially mentally, just preparing and everything, maybe I wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about where you land in a situation. And sometimes it’s about where you land and then what you do with it.”
Some would suggest we’ve been here before. Remember 2009?
That season, with Cooley also injured, Davis started 10 games and had what was thought to be a breakout season.
Last season, however, each player returned to his familiar role. Cooley was “The Man” in the Shanahans’ first season. Davis? He returned to being a potential star-in-waiting.
This time, though, Davis is determined to retain his standing. During the offseason, Davis made it known he planned to take a different approach if he ever received another big chance.
“I remember talking to him a couple of times [during the NFL lockout], and that’s when I knew he was” serious, Moss said. “He would say to me, ‘Hey, bro, I’m working. I’m working out. I’m looking good.’ That let me know a lot right there.
“He was saying that he knew what he had to do now. He knew to be that guy he wants to be here, he knew that his job depended on him being right. He had to go out and show them [the Shanahans] what he’s worth.”
Davis’s production on third down has opened eyes.
In the Week 1 victory, he had three third-down receptions, including two on the Redskins’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive that all but finished the game.
On Sunday, Davis had two more third-down catches that resulted in first downs.
“I just feel like it’s my time,” Davis said. “I just feel like it’s my time to play.”
No doubt about it. Davis is the right guy for this time. He has come a long way. And after where he was, Davis has no interest in returning.