Davis: More Than Another Receiver
By Dave Fletcher
Training camp is all about competition and earning jobs on a football team. But training camp has been over for nearly a week now and yet New Englands battle for the backup wide receiver/kickoff returner job has just gotten under way. That seems to be the message sent by Bill Belichick in light of Mondays acquisition of Andre Davis from the Cleveland Browns.
While Chad Morton and Bethel Johnson havent been able to showcase their kick return skills up to this point due to injury, Belichick doesnt appear willing to be too patient with the regular season just two weeks away. Toss in the fact that P.K. Sam and David Terrell havent played in a preseason game yet and Davis value on offense becomes even clearer.
We felt like it was just a situation where the value and what we thought the player could potentially add and how he could help our team was worth what we would have to give up in exchange for it, Belichick said. We feel pretty good about the terms of the trade and hopefully he'll be able to help us. How quickly he can pick up our system and what exactly he can do in it and all of that, we'll have to try to evaluate that in the next couple of weeks.
Its a lesson that applies to just about every position on the field in Foxboro. If theres a chance to upgrade a spot, Belichick wont hesitate to explore that possibility. As Drew Bledsoe learned, no player has a job engraved in stone -- whether theyre injured or not.
Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance as a kick returner and Belichick said Monday he expects him back on the field hopefully in the near future. But with Mortons health status still up in the air, Belichick hedged his bets by bringing in Davis.
I can't dictate that one guy is going to be more productive or do something that someone else isn't going to do, said the coach. If they can do it out on the field then great-- they'll get that role on the team. If somebody else does it better than we'll go with somebody else.
Belichick was sure to stress that the move didnt mean any of his receivers was in the coachs doghouse.
I'm not unhappy with anything. I think any time you can improve your team and improve the competition on your team at a position you try to do it.
If nothing else, the move should indicate just how serious the Patriots are value a return unit capable of big plays and scoring touchdowns, something the team hasnt done since the 2001 AFC Championship game.
But Belichick doesnt see Davis as just a special teams contributor. I think his return ability indicates that he has run after catch and the ability to make yards with the ball in his hand. He's run a number of reverses for Cleveland over the last couple of years.
Davis has compiled just over 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns in two and a half seasons. Like Johnson, he was a second round pick in 2002 who has experience his share of foot and toe problems that kept him out the second half of 2004. He also shares the same criticism of Bethel in having trouble getting past the line of scrimmage against physical defenses.
Coming into the current situation in New England, where 12 receivers are vying for probably only six roster spots, Davis knows he needs to impress in a hurry.
Of course, everybody's got to try out for the position," Davis said. ''I don't think there are any set guys here now. I think the New England Patriots are going to do what they need to do to put their best guys out there on the field Hopefully, if I continue to learn my plays and I can perform well, I can be one of those guys.
The Patriots intend to throw Davis right into the fire on Friday night against Green Bay. Being the third preseason game, most of the starters -- or expected starters -- should see significant playing time. In a receiving squad this deep, hauling in a couple fourth quarter passes from Matt Cassell or Doug Flutie may not be enough.
"Whatever I can do, I'm going to make sure that I do it to the best of my ability and make sure that I'm a smart player because I know [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick wants smart players."
Davis is certainly right about Belichick valuing smart players. Barring that, having someone whos healthy enough to play always helps too.
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