Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
News & Notes: Fred Davis’s Future, Quarterbacks, Donte Stallworth And More
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHBURN – It’s taken the better part of three years, but tight end Fred Davis feels like he finally has what it takes to have a breakout year.
The 6-foot-4 tight end reportedly weighed in at 243 pounds, according to coach Mike Shanahan – down from the 260 pounds he carried throughout last season.
“I just feel like in this offense, you don’t need to be that big tight end,” Davis said. “We do a lot of zone scheme running, and if you’ve got good hand placement and a really strong inside presence, you’ll still be able to run routes.
“I feel better this way. I feel like I’m going to be able to run routes that I normally could still run, but I just feel more agile, elusive, quicker. I feel quicker out of my breaks. I just feel good, really good.”
Davis has drawn Shanahan’s praise, and even been a target of affection from Keenan McCardell, the wide receivers coach, for his abilities in the passing game.
“Fred’s been doing an excellent job,” Shanahan said. “He almost looks like a wide receiver. He’s got the type of body to carry 260, but he’s even better at the weight he’s currently at.”
Davis, who caught 72 passes for 852 yards and nine touchdowns in his first three seasons combined, is looking to nearly double those numbers in 2011. He has set eight to 10 touchdowns and 800 yards as a benchmark this fall.
That might be more attainable in past years given the issues with starter Chris Cooley’s left knee. Cooley will not play in Friday’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh, which gives Davis that role.
“I want to be a starter in this league,” Davis said, noting that his rookie contract expires after this season. “It’s not my mentality to back somebody else up the rest of my life. To me, this is going to set me up to be somewhere, whether it be here or somewhere else. I want to be here, and I want to make sure to play to the best of my ability so that I can do that.”
Asked for clarification, Davis said he “definitely” wants to stay in Washington.
“This is where I was drafted,” he said. “The Redskins’ fans are great. When you’re winning in this city, they love you. I respect them when they boo us because we’re putting out junk. We’ve got to come out with some good things this year.”
- Shanahan didn’t want to divulge his plans for Friday’s preseason opener, saying that he’s yet to talk with his staff and address the players with regards to what he wants to do. He said the same thing Tuesday, but the players all said they had no idea as to what to expect against the Steelers. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, though, went the other route, saying Wednesday that the starters would only play the first 10 snaps or so before giving way to the reserves. It’s a typical move for the first preseason game.
- First-round pick Ryan Kerrigan is likely to see a significant number of snaps Friday because he hasn’t been able to practice much after bruising his right knee on the first day of training camp.
“Right now you can’t put him in too many plays, but [he needs to play] enough where he starts to get back into football shape and feeling comfortable with our defense,” Shanahan said.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett likes what he’s seen thus far. “It’s not an easy transition [to move from collegiate defensive end to linebacker], but he’s taking to it pretty well,” Haslett said.
- The Redskins practiced without pads on Wednesday, which may have made them a bit lazier. On more than one occasion, Shanahan had to call the team together for a meeting in the middle of the field go to correct the players’ mistakes. “For some reason today, the pads got off and we started making mental mistakes,” Davis said. “He gives us leeway to not wear pads, but he said to us that we’ve got to come out here and keep it going – not slow up and start jumping offsides and stuff like that.”
- They may have been slacking off a bit, but it’s not like they weren’t having fun. Rex Grossman found Anthony Armstrong wide open for a touchdown near the end of the final scrimmage, dropping the ball 25 yards into Armstrong’s arms down the left sideline. The receiver then hollered and jogged toward the end zone with cornerback Reggie Jones in pursuit. Jabar Gaffney, coming up behind Armstrong, set a block that was more of a shove on Jones than anything else, and Armstrong grabbed the ball, tiptoed the goal line and ran down the length of it until finally reaching the ball into the end zone for the score.
- The daily injury roll call, outside of Cooley: Quarterback John Beck (groin) practiced and took part in the team’s scrimmages, but he took fewer snaps than Rex Grossman and Kellen Clemens as a precautionary measure. His status for Friday is uncertain. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe missed practice for the third day because of a strained left hamstring. Right guard Artis Hicks (concussion) and receiver Malcolm Kelly (foot) were also held out of action.
- Despite his best efforts to make it a three-pony race, Clemens struggled again Wednesday. His passes were off the mark and not particularly crisp, a day after the former Jets quarterback botched the team’s two-minute drill. With Beck limited, Clemens had an opportunity to establish himself as a contender, but he hasn’t yet done that.
- Lorenzo Alexander has become the jack-of-all-trades at linebacker. Slotted to serve as Kerrigan’s back-up, Alexander spent much of training camp lining up as an inside linebacker as well. “They wanted me to learn it early while our numbers were low and get some reps in there so that during the season, I could continue to do what I normally do and fill in for guys that go down,” said the 6-foot-1, 275-pound Alexander. “My football IQ went so much up just because I understand where everybody’s at now, why we do certain things, why we call certain coverages. [It’s] just going to make me a better football player.”
- Donte Stallworth’s choice of music on his pregame list is … suspect, to say the least. When stopped for questions long after practice ended, “Maniac” could be heard blaring on his headphones. It got louder and louder until it was hard to ignore, and even Stallworth kept smiling during breaks knowing that the questions would switch to that topic. “I’m an ‘80s baby,” Stallworth, born in 1980, said. “Once I hit the field for warming up, it switches to a bit of Tupac, Jay-Z, Kanye [West], you know. It’s more modern music, more rap music. But I definitely have some Van Halen on that pregame list, some Bon Jovi. Some old school stuff.”
- The kicking competition isn’t becoming much of one, but not in the way many had expected. Graham Gano made six of his seven attempts during scrimmages Wednesday while Shayne Graham, he of the third-highest made field goal percentage all time, made only three of his six tries. Graham even uncorked an ugly kick that looked more like a balloon letting go of its air than the cannon shots Gano has been firing. Also looking strong is punter Sav Rocca, who arrived Saturday, didn’t practice until Monday and still unleashed a few 60-yarders midway through Wednesday’s practice.
- Jarvis Jenkins, Darrion Scott and Josh Wilson all had to retreat to the sidelines to calm down and stretch on Wednesday. Jenkins, the 6-foot-4, 309-pound rookie defensive end, had to stop his sprints early Tuesday because of fatigue. “Any time it’s right around 90 degrees and these guys are practicing around two and a half hours, there is going to be some dehydration, there’s going to be some cramping and that’s just part of camp,” Shanahan said. The Redskins are practicing early to beat the head and avoid dealing directly with the effects of heatstroke, so both the team and the athletic training staff need to be praised for that.
- I’ve covered football games in five NFL stadiums: Arizona (2011 Fiesta Bowl), Carolina (2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Friday will mark my first visit to FedExField. And yes, I’ve been plenty warned about the place, but if you’d like to send along any other words of caution (or have me stop by a tailgate), be my guest.