Can Davenport Help Shoulder the Load?

The Colts recently signed running back Najeh Davenport to help bolster their depth at the position. Who is he and how can he help? Brad Keller breaks it down.

Najeh Davenport was originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2002 draft.

He served as Ahman Green's backup during his tenure in Green Bay, appeared in 39 games in four seasons with the Packers, and started only when Green was unavailable (two starts).

He broke his ankle during the 2005 season and was placed on injured reserve.  Green Bay released him in September 2006, but he was quickly signed by the Steelers.  He played in 28 games in his two seasons in Pittsburgh, starting the final game of the 2007 season after starter Willie Parker suffered a broken fibula.

Davenport had a productive season with the Steelers last season
Donald Miralle/Getty

He also started during Pittsburgh's playoff game against the Jaguars in January, finishing with 25 yards on 16 carries, but scoring two touchdowns.

The Steelers released him on June 28th, only to sign him on September 30 when their running back depth was challenged.  They released him on November 8, re-signed him on November 27, then released him on December 2. He remained a free agent until the Colts picked him up on December 9.

For his career, he has 386 carries for 1,793 yards (a very impressive 4.6 average) and 13 touchdowns.  However, that has been over the course of seven seasons, but his most impressive campaign was last season, where he registered highs in terms of carries (107), yards (499), and touchdowns (five).  Additionally, he has 50 receptions for 484 yards and three touchdowns.

Where he might be most valuable, though, is as a kick returner, where he has averaged 22.6 yards per return on 84 total returns.

Although he is quite a bit bigger than the average Colt running back at 6-feet-1 and 247 pounds, he is an extremely versatile player that has a lot of different skills.

During the course of his career, he has been a special teams performer — both on the coverage team and returning kicks — a backup, a work horse, a third-down back, and a goal-line specialist.

He has done well enough in all those roles but, as the saying goes, he is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.  If he were adept enough in any particular role, he would have been able to catch on with a team and fulfill that role on a full-time basis.

As a third-down back, he is a capable blocker, an able receiver, and a player that can gain the yards available to him as a runner.  As a kick returner, he is stable, yet unspectacular, since he has never returned a kickoff for a touchdown and his career long is for 60 yards.

His most effective season as a return specialist was in 2003, when he averaged 31.7 yards per return.  But, with the current state of the return game for the Colts, slow and steady will win the race for Davenport.

On a team like Indianapolis that has dealt with its fair share of injuries over the course of the season, a player with the versatility of Davenport is something that the Colts need and can use.

Although it's highly unlikely that he will see a number of opportunities as a third down back or a reliever for Joseph Addai or Dominic Rhodes, he will certainly draw the return duties, at least this week against Detroit.

At this point, there are a lot of things that he can do to help the team.  As long as he can make the most of his diverse skill set, he will remain on the roster.  What he does with this opportunity is up to him.  After seven seasons, the smart money is on him moving on after the 2008 season concludes for Indianapolis, if not before.

But, with a lack of veteran depth behind Rhodes and Addai and no guarantees on the health of Mike Hart (as a third stringer) or T.J. Rushing (as a returner), he could snag a 2009 contract and enter the offseason as a sleeper to make the roster.

Once again, it's all up to Davenport.

Colts Blitz Top Stories