It’s safe to assume Washington D.C. and Fred Davis will part ways at the end of the season. However, having him sit on the inactive list at a time when the team is 2-5 is borderline ridiculous.
Jordan Reed may have emerged as Washington’s No.1 tight end, and his performances warrant that accolade. He seems to be the only player able to consistently hang on to a pass, which is vital for an offense that has struggled to put points on the board.
Nevertheless, Davis was re-signed during an offseason in which the team had very limited cap space, so Mike Shanahan may as well use him. The fact that Reed is on the field doesn’t mean Davis can’t be too.
Utilising Davis and Reed in a two-tight end set is something fans have envisioned since draft day. This would give opposition defenses numerous problems.
While it’s fair to say Logan Paulsen is a better blocker than Davis or Reed, he doesn’t pose the same sort of threat. Davis may not be a special teams contributor, but he is still a better overall tight end than Niles Paul.
Davis is in his sixth year in the league. At 27 years old, he should be in something close to his prime. He’s had injuries and suspensions every time he's threatened to break out, but the Week 7 game against the Chicago Bears was the first time he had been inactive while healthy since his rookie year.
That last fact was reported by Mike Jones at The Washington Post, who also stated that Shanahan had spoken with Davis privately and outlined what the tight end needed to do:
I’ve talked with Fred the last couple weeks. [I] sat down with him, especially when he was inactive and talked with him about what it takes to play in this league: responsibilities, accountabilities, and why people do play and why they don’t.
I’m not going to go through it. I’m just saying I sat down with Fred and told him why he wasn’t dressing and if he wanted to dress what he has to do.
This sends a clear message that Davis hasn’t been performing in training and hasn’t applied himself to his other responsibilities off the field. His recent comments about falling asleep in meetings won’t help his cause either.
However, Washington cannot afford to leave him on the bench right now. The team needs him, and it’s unfair to put all the expectations on Reed’s shoulders. Outside of Reed and Garcon, no one is stepping up to catch passes. The offense is predictable.
As reported by Mike Maske at The Washington Post, Davis’ contract allegedly stipulates he is owed an extra $500,000 if he is active for at least 12 games this year.
He’s sat out the last two games and missed another through injury, so if the decision is a business one, he’ll sit out another two before the end of the season. He’s an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so there’s no need for the coaches to grant him playing time.
The NFL is a business. Everyone accepts that. But surely the coaches should put the best 11 players on the field for each play?
Davis has been given a lot of chances in Washington, and it’s safe to say the team owes him nothing. He’s one of the few players drafted in the pre-Shanahan era to remain with the team, and his coach has stood by him throughout—even when his behaviour hasn’t really earned that support.
If Shanahan has had enough, that’s understandable. Davis is a frustrating figure and hasn’t delivered on his promise. That much is certain.
However, he can still contribute while he remains with the team and should be given the chance to do so.
Robert Griffin III isn’t the same player he was a year ago, and it’s affected his accuracy. It seems that the obvious solution is to run a bunch of screens and short passes early, get Griffin into a rhythm and then build off that.
It worked in his rookie season, so why not try it again? Watching the team abandon the run and throw three-and-outs as soon as the Broncos drew level in Week 8 was all too obvious and equally disappointing.
Davis can stretch the field and break off 25-yard gains from a short screen. Combined with Reed, he can make the offense unpredictable again.
The New England Patriots were so difficult to play against with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski on the field, as either player could break away and take one to the house. They were a matchup nightmare.
While Davis isn’t Gronkowski, having two tight ends who are both genuine receiving threats would give the struggling Washington offense an extra option. It doesn’t have to be every snap—just enough to grant Griffin that extra half-second as defenses try to decipher the play.
The bottom line is that Davis is too good to dump on the inactive list when the team sits in third place in a terrible NFC East. Even at 2-5, the division is there for the taking, and Davis can help Washington do that.
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