Davis Holds onto No. 3 WR Position

When Patrick Crayton arrived in San Diego, he envisioned a quick ascension to a starting role. Instead, he's stuck as a No. 4 receiver. That's because Buster Davis is finally healthy and living up to the hype.

Patrick Crayton is glad to be out of Dallas, but a quest for playing time may not be any more fulfilling in San Diego. The No. 4 receiver rarely figures in Norv Turner's game plan -- not with Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles catching so many balls -- so Crayton will have to move up the depth chart to pursue the numbers he desires.

The problem is Buster Davis -- the same Buster Davis who could not escape the inactive list last season -- is strengthening his hold on the slot-receiver position.

Davis caught five passes for 48 yards last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He now has seven catches on the season, more than he had in all of 2008 or 2009.

Dating back to last year's season finale, a game in which Davis played while the Chargers rested their starters, the LSU product now has 13 catches for 126 yards in his last three outings. If he continues that pace over the next 14 games, he would finish with nearly 70 receptions this season.

Key to Davis' success is his newfound willingness to play through minor injuries. For example, he suffered a hip pointer in training camp but fought his way back into the lineup and never missed a preseason game.

Now healthy, Davis is showing the skills that made him a first-round pick in 2007, including exceptional quickness and soft hands.

Everything looks good for Davis, but he must prove he can do it for an extended period of time if he hopes to hold off Crayton. The seventh-year veteran has caught at least 35 passes in each of the last four seasons, although that streak appears in serious jeopardy at the moment.

Crayton's big edge comes in experience. He knows how to run precise routes, read defenses and make himself available to his quarterback. He's still playing catch-up after arriving via trade earlier this month, but he's feeling more comfortable with each passing week and is ready to take on a larger role.

Too bad Davis has other ideas.

Can Patrick Crayton climb the depth chart? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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