ASHBURN, Va. -- The interest wasn’t there in the offseason and Fred Davis understands why. A suspension one year followed by a ruptured Achilles the next.
He knows how to make it different next time around. It starts Monday. And he does so with one thought in mind:
“Make sure every team feels it when I play them,” Davis said.
For Davis, that means playing in all 16 games (he’s never started more than 12 in a season). It means being productive (which shouldn’t be a problem in this offense). And it means reminding everyone that he’s only 27 years old.
It’s the third straight season Davis has entered in the final year of his contract. The first one featured good production and a four-game suspension because of drugs to end the season. The second one featured more good production and then a season-ending injury.
“I feel like the underdog,” Davis said. “The third time is the charm. This is going to be a good year for me. I’m physically and mentally ready and it’s my fourth year in this offense, so I’m ready.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said two weeks ago of Davis, “What I have seen is very encouraging. He has played well, he has caught the ball well, he has blocked well. Hopefully he can continue to do that.”
Davis said he last felt discomfort in his Achilles several months ago and he didn’t look a whole lot different in training camp than in previous years. If there’s a drop-off because of the injury it was a slight one.
The problem for Davis could be catching as many passes as he’d like. He was on pace to catch 78 two years ago before the suspension, a byproduct of having few legitimate weapons alongside him. Last season, in his six full games, Davis caught 23 passes and was on pace to catch 61. However, he points out that in the final four games he grabbed 19, so he was becoming more involved.
This season, the Redskins have more options. Receiver Pierre Garcon is healthy; the running game remains strong with Alfred Morris and Roy Helu adds another option as a third-down back. But Garcon’s presence could help Davis. So, too, could the fact that as quarterback Robert Griffin III evolves, more passes will be thrown. Last season they ran more than they threw.
What helps Davis is the style of the offense, which presents tight ends good opportunities to run after the catch, thanks to the heavy play-action and bootlegs. Davis’ ability to get downfield off such plays adds another dimension to the offense. It’s one reason he’s averaged 13.8 yards per reception in Shanahan’s system.
“We all know the offense like the back of our hand,” Davis said. “A lot of people will get one-on-one coverage and if not they’ll sit in a zone and we’ll move the ball upfield. Knowing we have the run game helps, too.
“If I get 60 or 70 balls, I can do a lot with that. I know I’ll get over 800 yards. It looks like we have a lot of options to keep teams guessing.”
Maybe then he could keep teams interested after the season when it’s time for a new contract. The reality is that only two teams made a serious bid on him -- the Redskins and Buffalo Bills (the latter offered him a two-year deal). The New York Jets backed out when they heard the price and no other teams became all that serious. Davis eventually signed a one-year deal for $1 million with a $1.5 million bonus. He took the one-year offer knowing another good year would lead to a much bigger pay day.
“Teams wanted to get me for cheap,” he said. “The teams I had options to see -- when they first told me the numbers they were thinking about -- I was, like, 'No way I’m going to entertain them.'”
He knows what he cost himself in the short term. He knows he can still impact the outcome.
“I think about it like that, but then I don’t because the stuff that happened, happened,” Davis said. “Now the only way to be positive is to know I can change the circumstances by playing good football. It’s not like I’m old enough to where I can’t play anymore. I still have a lot of years left.”