The Browns traditionally only keep six receivers
Keep in mind this: it’s only preseason. Every year there is a certain name that everybody seems to bend their neck to see what they are doing. And this year, a lot of the noodle necking has been directed at wide receiver Davion Davis.
But the wide receiver group as a whole has gotten quite a bit of ink this training camp. First off is the re-emergence of Odell Beckham, Jr. to the roster. His injury is usually projected as a 12-month return, but he was not on the PUP list to begin camp but was in attendance with no restrictions from his torn ACL and will only make the Browns better.
Donovan Peoples-Jones is the most notable receiver in the group so far and appears to be starter material on a team that already has two Pro Bowl caliber starters in OBJ and Jarvis Landry. If someone was to put together a 2021 Browns training camp highlight reel, DPJ would dominate the footage.
Other receivers who have gotten their share of favorable press have been Alexander Hollins and Davion Davis (5’-11”, 195 pounds). Rookie speedster Anthony Schwartz was thought to become the darling of training camp but has had his share of hamstring issues.
Hollins and Davis are both former members of the Minnesota Vikings where Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski was the offensive coordinator.
Texas kid times two
Davis grew up in Hutto, Texas and went to Hutto High School where he played quarterback and then switched to wide receiver. As a senior, he had 73 receptions for 1,259 yards with a 17.2 yards per catch ratio and scored 18 touchdowns. He also returned punts and kickoffs and punted for a 38.7 average. Hutto played in the State quarter finals but was defeated.
While at Hutto, Davis was named 7-A All District, First Team All-Central Texas and Honorable Mention All-State. He had several college offers with most at the D-2 level. He decided on Sam Houston State University, a D-1 school.
Davis became a star with Sam Houston State with a major in Kinesiology.
He started four games as a freshman with an average of 31.9 yards per catch and set a Sam Houston freshman record for most yards in a single game. In his sophomore campaign, he had 56 catches for 960 yards with 10 touchdowns and started every game. At season’s end he was named to the HERO Sports Sophomore All-American Team and was selected Second Team All-Southland Conference.
In Davis’ junior year he increased his receptions to 78 for 1,206 yards with 17 touchdowns. He also had six kickoff returns for 152 yards and returned 13 punts for an additional 281 yards with two scores. He was named First Team All-Southland Conference as a receiver and also as a return specialist. Then Davis was elected Southland Conference Offensive Player-of-the-Year plus First Team FCS All-American by the Associated Press.
His senior year there were huge expectations. But he suffered a left leg injury and missed the final three games. The end result was 52 receptions for 569 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was still selected First Team All-Southland Conference as a receiver which included an acrobatic highlight reel catch that he hauled in with one hand against Central Arkansas.
When Davis graduated from Sam Houston, he was the Southland Conference’s all-time reception leader.
The draft profile on Davis indicted that he was a very reliable and shifty player. Rarely does he drop passes and will run shallow routes or deep crossing patterns as he was fearless. A triple threat in regards to his kickoff and punt return abilities.
The negatives surrounded that he needed to run better routes, has a small stature and tries to break tackles in a phone booth.
His draft projection was between the fifth and seventh rounds. Despite a very good career in college, the NFL draft came and went for Davis.
Two days after the draft and lots of calls from prospective NFL clubs, the undrafted rookie chose to sign with the Vikings which had also gotten Washington QB Jake Browning and current Browns teammate Alexander Hollins.
During Vikings’ training camp Davis was unable to earn reps over more experienced players. However, it was noted that his athleticism was outstanding and could perhaps become a standout on Special Teams, including as a punt returner. Despite the attention he received, Minnesota didn’t utilize him much during the preseason with just two pass receptions for 11 yards.
Davis lasted until the final cut-down day before he was waived. He was then signed to Minnesota’s practice squad. The day before the Week 4 game against the Chicago Bears, Davis was brought up to the active roster. Three weeks later without any game action, he was waived, re-signed to the practice squad, and then again added to the 53-man roster in a two-week span. Davis finally saw the field in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins, but did not have any catches. Three weeks later, he was cut again.
In January 2020 the Vikings signed him to a reserve/futures contract. In August, they waived him yet again.
The Spring League inked him to play in their short season in 2021 where he played for the Blues.
Davis finished #TSL2021 with 14 receptions for 223 yards and 2 TDs (including this highlight reel catch in Week 1).
— The Spring League (@TheSpringLeague) June 14, 2021
In that league, Davis did go down the field quite a bit but he is more likely in the pattern of perhaps the Jarvis Landry mold.
Next up: the Browns
You have to hand it to Cleveland GM Andrew Berry. He seems to find bodies under every rock. Davis playing in The Spring League was one of those stones Berry peered under.
As Davis came out of Sam Houston, he did not test well for his speed and the explosiveness that is needed for the wide receiver position at the NFL level. However, his agility was off the charts. His likely position going forward if he does indeed make the final roster, would most likely become the slot receiver. And certainly as a return man or a tackler on punt and kickoff return units.
As DPJ was making the most headlines in this year’s training camp, Davis has turned many a head as well and has had folks asking, “Who is that Number 18?” His journey to the Browns has gone from camp practice body to camp virtuoso.
In the first preseason game against Jacksonville in which the starters from both clubs either played sparingly or not at all, Davis played on 34% of offensive plays and had four receptions for 56 yards including a terrific touchdown catch with full body extension in the back corner of the end zone.
The wide receiver depth is impressive on this year’s team. Traditionally, most clubs only keep six receivers. Last year, Cleveland kept exactly that number.
Does he fit?
A list of potential locks in the receiver room are as follows: OBJ, Landry, DPJ, Rashard Higgins and the rookie Schwartz. That’s five. Hollins is having a good camp. So is rookie sixth-rounder Demetric Felton. Veteran KhaDarel Hodge plays well on certain days and drops passes in games the next.
Could Davis become that sixth receiver? He knows that nothing is given to an athlete and has to earn it and work hard. If he continues on this trend, there is no way the Browns can waive him with the expectations that no other club will pick him up. They won’t be able to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Davis fits the Browns because he is a true playmaker with the ability to make things happen despite average speed. He can be a danger on bubble screens or with the long pass. He is virtually fearless as a return man. Would make a great slot receiver and provide quality depth to the receiver room if WR coach Chad O’Shea can find a way to refine his technique when running routes.
And if the remainder of the preseason keeps going his way, Stefanski will have no other choice than to retain his services.