It was a special teams play in the third quarter of the first preseason game, so it was probably overlooked, but Drew Davis made a play the coaching staff noticed.
Before Bobby Rainey could take a step to return a punt back for Baltimore in Thursday night's game, Davis had hurried down the field and cleanly tackled Rainey for a one-yard loss on punt coverage. For a player that is fighting for a roster spot, it was a huge play.
Davis, a wide receiver who spent last season on the practice squad for Atlanta, is competing for the fifth and final wide receiver position for the Falcons and like so many fringe players, special teams is a key to their making the squad. Although Davis only caught one pass for three yards, he had a good game and head coach Mike Smith took notice.
"Drew had a very good game," Smith said. "Not only playing his offensive snaps, he did what he was supposed to do on the offensive side of the ball, but also he had a tackle and an assist on special teams. … That position, when we start talking about the fifth wide receiver, special teams is probably going to carry more weight than receiving skills. That fifth receiver is going to play more snaps on special teams than on offense."
Davis has been competing with Kevin Cone for the final position at wide receiver and Cone may have been the early clubhouse leader, but Davis has spent the last week making a run at it. Davis followed up a strong night of practice at the Titans scrimmage in Dalton on Monday night with his positive performance against the Ravens.
The former Oregon wide receiver has found himself running with the first-team offense occasionally and it's been a big boost for Davis.
"I think that's what this game is," Davis said. "It's all about confidence. Knowing you can play in this league and do some good things is a big thing. I will go out there with the same mentality regardless, but with the ones, you've got to make sure you're crisp and in the right place. If you're not where you're supposed to be, you'll hear about it from Matt (Ryan)."
Davis missed a nice sideline catch from Ryan in the first quarter by a few inches. It was a play challenged by Smith, but the final outcome was that Davis' foot was touching the out-of-bounds line. It's a play he'd liked to have back, but he continues to study the guys in front of him and listens to their coaching points to ensure things like that won't continue to happen.
Smith is excited about Davis' play and he considers the roster battle for the final wideout position one of the better ones in camp, even though the majority of the depth chart at that position has been decided.
"Drew has been practicing well and is doing a nice job," Smith said. "It's going to be interesting to see how that competition goes. That's one that most people aren't talking about, but there's a lot of roster spots and that's one of the spots that is up for grabs. I think we're pretty sure who the first four are going to be, but that fifth receiver is open and there are some young guys that have done some nice things that can get in the mix over the next three games."