Fred Davis has shown a tendency to underachieve since arriving in Washington, and it may finally have cost him. Davis is too talented to let go and too frustrating to keep. So what should the Redskins do with him?
Although this year has been blighted with nagging injury hangovers from last season, his three-game total of 25 yards from three receptions isn't going to get him a new contract.
In his sixth NFL season, the man once nicknamed “Sleepy” should be the unquestioned starter. He should be stretching the field with every reception and giving Robert Griffin III a playmaker from the tight end position.
Instead, he has been beaten back by a rookie and his own backup.
That's not to disrespect third-round pick Jordan Reed or Logan Paulsen. Both have performed well and are deserving of their places.
Fred Davis finished 2nd in yards-per-target among all TEs with 30+ targets last season (10.2). First was Gronk. #Redskins— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 28, 2013
However, Reed is still finding his feet in the league and is not a good blocker—something that is absolutely demanded of him in Mike Shanahan's offense. Paulsen, meanwhile, is a good blocker and safety valve but has also dropped passes and fumbled the ball at crucial times already this year.
Will Fred Davis be a Redskins player next season?
Davis shouldn't be finding himself on the sidelines.
Watching him this season, it's almost as if the coaches have already decided to cut their losses and look to the future. Reed has a very high ceiling and has probably been the best pick of the most recent Washington draft. It's understandable that the Shanahans want to see what he can do, but if Davis is healthy, he would be expected to start.
The lack of involvement for No. 83 is baffling, but it's by no means the first time it's happened.
After Griffin was drafted, Davis was expected to play a vital role in the new-look Redskins offense. He was quick enough to get open should Griffin extend the play with his feet, and his ability to gain good yards after the catch promised much.
Evidence that Fred Davis is phased out of the #Redskins offense: Jordan Reed targeted 15 times in 3 games. Davis targeted 7x in 3 contests.— HoldenKushner (@Holdenradio) October 9, 2013
However, the tight end totaled four receptions across the first two games for 52 yards. He came alive in Week 3 to post a 90-yard game, then another 70 the following week. He suddenly burst into life, as if Griffin had previously forgotten he was there. Questions hung around after the loss to the St. Louis Rams about Davis' lack of involvement but were put to rest the next week. Could that happen again?
Of course, another injury derailed his 2012 comeback attempt, and he tested free agency in the summer. But the sense was still that he had a role to play with the Redskins in 2013.
Davis should have been used more in the opening games. Griffin was throwing the ball more than he ever had, yet Davis remained without a catch.
There may have been some residual soreness from his Achilles injury, but his absence from the offense seemed like a preordained plan.
If he wasn't healthy, he shouldn't have been starting. If he was healthy, why weren't the coaches getting him the ball? It didn't—and still doesn't—make sense.
After all, Davis himself told Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com that he was free from pain. Why shouldn't we have believed him?
In the past, Davis' off-field activities let him down, and he was left apologetic for the way he had behaved. The feeling was that he always had ground to make up with the coaches.
First there was the rest-related absence from team meetings, then the drug-related suspension. When it seemed he had turned a corner and was ready to be the player his potential pointed to in 2008, he was struck down by bizarre court cases and injury.
All signs pointed toward this being his final chance in the nation's capital, but now it seems he won't even get that. Of course, his comments on the Redskins' name won't help matters, but on a team struggling to convert on third down and an offense struggling to post first-half points, a player like Davis is exactly what is required.
Both Reed and Paulsen have picked up injuries before the bye week, so the team is already stretched thin. Davis' ankle problems continued as the Redskins went into their break, but all three tight ends should emerge from it healthy.
The game against the Cowboys in Week 6 is absolutely crucial—for the Redskins, for the NFC East and for Davis.
By the end of it, the depth chart at tight end will be much clearer. Right now, it seems like Davis will be finding a new home pretty soon.