FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Monday evening Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drew Davis, working against the Tennessee Titans in a combined practice, caught a pass and knocked head coach Mike Smith to the ground.
The speed of the game mixed with the competitive juices of practicing for the first time against a team with a different logo on its jersey seemed to slow down momentarily for Davis when he realized he had just bowled over his head coach.
“I’m wondering, when’s the next plane out of here,” Davis said was his first thought after the collision. “It’s one of those things you worry about. You knocked the head guy down.”
Davis said he didn’t have any extra wind sprints of other punishments from Smith Tuesday morning, but his teammates did joke about it with him quite a bit.
Now that both Smith and Davis are fine, the second-year wide receiver hopes that the result of the play, not the blow to Smith is what the head coach remembers.
“I hope he’s happy that I made the catch,” said Davis.
Of course Smith’s happy that Davis made the catch. He’s happier that it’s something that Davis has done a lot of in training camp thus far: Make catches.
“Drew Davis is developing very well,” said Smith. “He was on our practice squad last year, and he’s got height, speed, and catches the ball extremely well. He’s a guy that’s very young in his football development. He’s a good young prospect for us.”
In the crowd of wide receivers on the Falcons roster that aren’t household names, Davis, along with Kevin Cone and Kerry Meier, has truly been impressive in camp. Davis seems more comfortable and he’s definitely making more catches than he did last year.
In the offseason Davis went home to Denver to work on basic conditioning with his high school coach and to also perfect his route running. Since as a rookie he missed all the offseason workouts with the team, there were times last year when Davis wasn’t up to speed.
“I would say it was a big deal,” Davis said about not participating on OTAs or minicamp in 2011. “The playbook was thrown at us a lot in fall camp. There were nights when I didn’t go to sleep until one or two o’clock. And a lot of it’s about being comfortable and knowing what you’re doing and then you can go out and execute at your best ability.
“Last year we were kind of worrying about ‘am I running the right route’ ‘am I doing the right thing’ we kind of just didn’t feel at peace with the whole playbook. But this year we’re learning things beyond the playbook, to run certain routes a different way and how to give the defense certain looks.”
And the extra work is paying dividends for Davis.
Davis has not only been working against the second- and third-string defense, he’s also getting his fair share of reps against the likes of Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson.
Not only has he been getting work in against those three corners, he’s been more than holding his own.
“I’m out there and I’m going against Grimes, who’s a great cornerback, Dunta who’s going to be one of the best,” said Davis. “You know you’re out there and you have confidence against those guys who have been to Pro Bowls who know what to do when they’re out there and know what to look for, it’s real big for me to just go out there and have fun and run routes against them and be able to know that I can win sometimes.”
And if he keeps winning… sometimes, Davis will be in line to win the coveted fifth spot on the wide receivers’ depth chart.
Atlanta typically carries five wide receivers on its active roster. The top four receivers have likely already been decided in Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Meier. That leaves the final spot to be fought over by Davis and Cone.
Davis said neither he nor Cone talk about the inevitability of the possibility of there being only one spot left between them. They’re both good friends, according to Davis, and often work together after practice to get better.
“Even if there is just one spot, may the best man get it,” said Davis. “I’m out here working hard every day regardless of what happens.”