Fred Davis is heading into his sixth season in Washington, longer than any Redskins offensive regular. And yet, if it doesn’t seem that Davis has been around that long, it’s because he has yet to start more than 12 games in a season and has averaged just eight starts during his career.
A backup to established starter Chris Cooley as a rookie in 2008, Davis finished as the No. 1 tight end after Cooley broke an ankle in Week 7. The next year, Cooley had returned from injury to reclaim his starting job and Davis slipped from 48 catches to just 21.
Cooley was banged-up from the start in 2011, but Davis finished the season on a four-game substance abuse suspension. Last year, Davis suffered a season-ending ruptured left Achilles in Week 7.
So the 27-year-old Davis is really eager to play a complete season in 2013, especially because hopes to earn a lucrative, long-term contract from the Redskins.
“I wanted to see what my options were, but I definitely wanted to be here,” Davis said of his decision to spurn an offer from Buffalo this spring and re-sign a second straight one-year contract with Washington. “I’m comfortable with the team. I’m comfortable with the offense. I definitely know I can be successful in the offense.”
The winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end as a Southern Cal senior in 2007, the 6-foot-4, 258-pound Davis was certainly successful in 2011, his most extended tenure as Washington’s starter. His team-leading 59 catches and 796 yards in 12 games before the suspension projected to 79 catches and 1,061 yards over a full season, totals exceeded only by New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew in the former category and by Graham in the latter among NFC tight ends. In 2012, no NFC tight end had so many yards and only Graham, Dallas’ Jason Witten and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez had so many catches.
Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams believes that Davis can recapture his fine pre-Achilles form this season.
“Fred’s always gonna be a big, powerful, strong guy,” Williams said. “It doesn’t really like he lost too much of a step.”
Davis had hoped to rejoin his teammates in practice for last week’s minicamp, but coach Mike Shanahan opted to hold him out until the Redskins reconvene for training camp on July 25.
“I’m a quick healer,” he said. “I felt like I was getting stronger a few months after my surgery. [There’s] a little stiffness, but it doesn’t hurt. As far as cutting and stuff, I really feel good.”
But not quite good enough for Shanahan to risk that Achilles before camp.
“I like what I see on a day-to-day basis,” Shanahan explained. “You can see the explosion. He has worked very hard to get himself where he is at. I just don’t want him to push against anybody right now. I just don’t want to take the chance when he has an extra month and a half recovery time. But if we were playing [this week], I think he might be able to go. I except Fred back full speed ready to go at camp.”
The Redskins used their second selection in April’s draft on Florida tight end Reed, but Davis said that’s more of an issue for backups Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, who filled in when he was hurt last year, than for him.
“It’s the NFL,” Davis said. “There’s always competition. I know what I’ll do. I don’t know what it means for the second tight end.”
With Cooley seemingly gone for good, it’s time for Davis to firmly establish himself as an elite No. 1 tight end.