The Atlanta Falcons cut QB John Parker Wilson, opening the door for ECU's Dominique Davis.
By JOHN MANASSOFS South
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — For every Kurt Warner (1994) or Tony Romo (2003), there are far more Doug Johnsons (2000) and John Parker Wilsons (2009).
The Falcons' Dominique Davis is trying to be that rare undrafted quarterback who not only lands a roster spot, but defies the odds to earn one of the 32 prestigious starting jobs in the NFL and also has a measure of lasting success.
Davis is far from landing the starting job — not with Matt Ryan taking snaps. But with the release of Wilson on Sunday, the Falcons signaled that Davis, out of East Carolina, will likely be on the roster when final cuts are made on Friday.
"I don't know if it's very rare, I'd say it's in the lower percentiles in terms of when it actually happens," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of undrafted quarterbacks making rosters. The process was made even harder without a special spot for a third quarterback in the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect last year.
In a training camp without a lot of story lines — the Falcons mostly feature a veteran roster with few competitive battles for starting jobs — Davis has proved one of the most compelling. He’s outplayed the second- and third-stringers during the team's three preseason games.
During the preseason, the 23-year-old Davis completed 19-of-32 passes (59.4 percent) for 227 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has been sacked twice, but has run the ball twice for 21 yards.
Despite that success, he is refusing to count his proverbial chickens until they are hatched. On Thursday in the preseason finale at Jacksonville, he figures to get a good deal of playing time. He could still play his way off the roster.
"One step closer," Davis said. "Got one more game left. I'll be able to be happy when the time comes — next week."
With 35-year-old Chris Redman looking as if this could be his final season with the team, Davis could turn into exactly the kind of project who might become the backup next season. But the Falcons might fear the risk of trying to sign Davis to the practice squad because the league's other 31 teams would have a chance to sign him to their active rosters first.
Redman played slightly better on Friday at Miami, going 4-for-7 for 36 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a 71.1 rating after struggling in the first two games.
"Dominique has taken advantage of every opportunity that he's been given,” Smith said. “When you do that and you perform — albeit he's been performing in the second half of the first two preseason games and then basically the fourth quarter in the third preseason game — you always have to temper your evaluation. But he's done a very nice job."
As Smith's comments illustrate, the Falcons have tempered their enthusiasm about Davis, who might be hearing similar words in the meeting room and on the practice field.
Coaches tell him to make "a better throw here, a better drop here, just little stuff like that," Davis said. "That keeps me humble."
Recruited out of Lakeland, Fla., he signed with Boston College, where his true freshman year was Ryan's final college season there. He said the chance to learn from Ryan again was a major factor in why he picked Atlanta as a free agent.
Davis said Ryan's advice to him is to make good decisions. Not making good decisions is why Davis did not end up finishing his collegiate career at BC. Media reports in 2009 indicated that Davis was suspended for academic reasons. He then chose to transfer.
"Really, made a bad decision," Davis said. "I was what, a freshman, a sophomore? Something I learned from, and will never do it again. Just learn from your mistakes."
Davis went to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, his first stop on a hard road back before landing at East Carolina. He said the junior college experience taught him about "becoming a man, maturing."
"That was the main part," Davis said, "because being in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, that's a very humbling experience. Some people don't make it out. I'm just thankful that I made it out and had enough opportunities."
As a senior at ECU, he completed 334-of-494 passes (67.6 percent) for 3,225 yards and 25 TDs. He said he does not think about the odds stacked against him in making the Atlanta roster, but rather goes out and simply competes. He called the Falcons a "perfect situation" for him.
"I feel like I came along way," Davis said. "I come here and just try to work hard, take it one day at a time and do what the coaches tell me to do. Take the criticism and just never be satisfied."