Every young man's dream is to be counted among the elite. In sports, that means making the pro team. 'Tis the season for dreamers in the NFL.
A reader's questions about RB Tristan Davis triggered those thoughts. Davis has been on, off and back on the Washington Redskins practice squad since 2011. Scott Hirsch, "SH", the Hog Heaven reader, makes the case for Davis. I will comment as "HH."
SH - The early reports have been that Davis looks super fast at training camp. He is quite a long shot to make the roster despite running the 40 in as low as 4.34 and being a good 212 lbs. That is one fast train.
When I did some research, I saw clips of him burning defenses with 79-yard td runs, etc. Yet somehow he would be cut from 3 NFL teams despite scoring big running TD's on his only preseason chance to run.
You read the reviews from his college days and everyone said he was a monster waiting to rip up the NFL fields. He was hampered by a couple foot injuries in college, but even still, averaged over 13 yards per carry and 23 yards per kick return.
HH - The video I saw dates to 2005. Davis is a Jason Campbell teammate on Auburn's 2004 undefeated team. He accumulated more stats at Auburn as a kick returner than as running back. What's worrisome is that Davis should be more prominent by now if he had high NFL potential. He left Auburn in 2009, but has no NFL stats. Davis was a member of the Lions and Dolphins practice squads in 2009. He was part of the Vikings, Saints and Steelers practice squad in 2011 before he was twice signed by the Redskins. It seems the NFL has rendered its judgment.
SH - I wish people could think out of the box. If this guy is a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, he should start instead of Royster or Young. Or alternatively, sneak in on special teams including returns and rotate in as RB.
HH - If Redskins fans learned anything after rooting for Marcus Mason, it is that coaches do not put stock on highlight video as do fans. Mason struck me as having "can't miss" potential. Can't miss turned into near miss. Mason was on the Redskins roster for a hot minute in 2007. He was released in 2008 even though he led the league in preseason rushing yards.
You are talking about Davis as a better prospect than Evan Royster or Darrel Young. The only part of the offense tougher to crack is quarterback. It would take a lot to push Tim Hightower, Roy Helu or Royster off the 53-man roster. Young is a fullback whose main role is to protect Robert Griffin III in the backfield.
SH - If you recall, the Redskins had serious trouble breaking long plays last year for TDs. The existing RBs including Alfred Morris as the super cool battering ram he seems to be, are not going to break even a couple 79-yard runs for TDs.
My guess for that drought: 1) few long throws 2) poorly placed medium to long throws 3) Redskins previous penchant for tiny 5 '10 receivers that aren't the best for blocking downfield and 4) No super-explosive runners/running QB out of the backfield.
HH - You are correct. Redskins rushers were not playmakers last season. They have to get better. Washington had issues on both sides of the ball. We had 10 rushes over 20 yards all last season, but the defense allowed 14 rushes of over 20 yards, highest of the Beast teams. That problem cropped up mid-season as I recall.
Super Bowl champion New York Giants were worse with a mere four rushes over 20 yards and they allowed 11 for the opposition. The Eagles rushed 20 times for over 20 yards, but finished the season 8-8 and out of the playoffs. In 21st-Century football, long runs might not be so critical to winning.
Running back size matters less too in this passing era. LaDainian Tomlinson, who retired today, played at 5-10, 220 pounds. Clinton Portis is 5-11 and played at 205 to 220 pounds depending on what the coaches asked of him. Hightower, Helu and Royster are each 6-0 and in the same weight range. Davis measures 5-10 and 212 pounds.
Your Hog Heaven writers believe Helu offers the most versatility out of the backfield for what (we think) Mike Shanahan wants to do with a talent like RG3, to threaten the perimeter then get the ball to a wide receiver, tight end or rusher on a pass pattern.
Washington's backs need to do better as breakaway threats after they get their hands on the ball as rushers or receivers. They have to be pass blockers as well. Concern for blocking did in Marcus Mason. It is even more important now.
I wondered how Davis was doing in the OTAs and mini-camp, so turned to my blogging friend, CSN Washington's Rich Tandler, for his observation.
@SkinsHogHeaven Davis didn't do anything to distinguish himself during OT's or minicamp. Crowded position, very much a long shot.— Rich Tandler (@Rich_Tandler) June 15, 2012
If Tristan Davis is to live his dream, his pathway is superior blocking and special teams. Any back can run the ball.
Tristan Davis, Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower missed a day of OTAs earlier this month for minor injuries. None were serious enough that they would miss training camp in july.