Fred Davis had already paid his airfare to get out of town during the Washington Redskins‘ bye week vacation. He had even secured a ticket to see his college team, Southern Cal, play at Oregon.
USC lost that game, by the way, 47-20.
“Good thing I stayed here,” Davis said, shaking his head.
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Davis canceled his travel plans after Chris Cooley broke his right ankle in a loss to Philadelphia before the bye. With Cooley out a month, maybe longer, the 2008 second-round draft pick spent some 4 1/2 hours a day working with position coach Scott Wachenheim, preparing for his first game as a No. 1 tight end when the Redskins visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
“I don’t want to get too excited,” Davis said. “It might be different (Sunday).”
The Redskins don’t care if he gets excited – as long as Davis figures out how to block.
He can already catch. He had eight receptions, more than his total in the first six games combined, after Cooley went down in the second quarter of the Eagles game. The problem is that Davis didn’t do much to get in the way of a Philadelphia pass rush that piled up six sacks.
The Redskins will need more from their tight end after season-ending injuries to linemen Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas.
“I was like, ‘Man, people say he can’t block,’ but to me it was more like ‘He got thrown in there,”‘ Davis said. “I’m not a great blocker. I’m not a good blocker yet, but I know I can be.”
To that end, Davis spent the vacation working with Wachenheim on the basics of blocking, including hand placement and footwork.
“I’m strong enough to block somebody,” Davis said. “I’m not a weak guy. I put up a lot of weight in the weight room. But no matter how strong you are, if a guy gets under your pads, he’s going to win.”
Cooley leaves big shoes to fill. Davis said the Eagles‘ defense put less emphasis on covering the tight end after he entered the game, helping him to gather those eight catches, including his first career touchdown.
But he knows the Falcons are probably licking their chops after watching the game film, seeing a tight end vulnerable to the blitz.
“I think the main thing their defense is going to try to do is bull rush,” Davis said. “And I’ve just got to try to deal with that.”
Davis might have the rest of the year to deal with it. Cooley, walking with two crutches and a large boot on his right ankle, gave an update on his recovery Wednesday. While he’s hopeful the injury will sideline him only four weeks, he could be out longer.
“I’m hopeful that I can come back and play,” Cooley said. “I still have an inch break in my ankle and it has three screws in it, so I’m not getting around so well, so we’ll see what happens.”
Cooley, who leads the team with 29 catches, had surgery last week and will see a doctor on Monday to learn how well he’s healing. Sunday will be the first game he’s missed in his six-year NFL career, and he said he’s honored that the Redskins haven’t put him on season-ending injured reserve to open up a roster spot.
“I think the tough decision ends up being on our organization in the next couple of weeks, of keeping a spot for me over that amount of time,” Cooley said, “taking the risk of whether I’ll be able to play or not.”
Meanwhile, Davis is anxious to fill in for the Redskins, who are trying to come back refreshed from the bye following a 2-5 start.
“This is a totally new season for me,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity. Everybody wants to see what I can do. To me, I like it. I like competing . I like the challenge.”