In the early days of training camp, the Jets signed a few new players and we’ll be breaking them down in detail for you over the next week or so. Today, we break down wide receiver and return specialist Rashard Davis in detail.
The 26-year old Davis is listed at 5’9” and 180 pounds and was undrafted out of JMU in 2017. He has played in one regular season game, in which he caught one pass for 16 yards, and one postseason game. Davis has also played in the CFL and USFL.
Davis was a dual-threat quarterback in high school, but headed to James Madison as a wide receiver in 2013, where he showcased some playmaking skills in his freshman year. He racked up 173 receiving yards on 12 catches and 124 rushing yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while also returning eight kickoffs at an average of 20 yards per return.
In his second season, Davis saw more action, catching 21 passes for 254 yards and scoring three total touchdowns. He again saw some action on kickoff returns and ran back three punts for 44 yards.
Davis started nine of 11 games in 2015, racking up career highs with 592 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He again contributed as a runner and return man.
In his final season with the Dukes, Davis started a career-high 12 games. He was an all-conference first team selection on special teams and the conference special teams player of the year as he returned four punts for touchdowns. He also caught a career high 42 passes and scored a career best seven total touchdowns.
Despite a solid pro day workout, Davis was not selected in the 2017 NFL draft and the Eagles signed him as an undrafted free agent. Over the next few seasons he spent time on the rosters and practice squads for the Eagles, Raiders and Chiefs but didn’t see his first NFL action until he signed with the Titans towards the end of the 2019 season. They signed him shortly after he had been selected first overall in the XFL draft but of course he opted to take the NFL offer instead of playing in that league.
Davis caught a 16-yard pass on his only offensive snap in his lone regular season appearance with Tennessee and also played one game in the postseason. He fielded five punts with three fair catches and two returns for nine yards in those two games.
The Titans released Davis in final cuts in 2020, but then brought him back at the end of the year and signed him to a futures deal for 2021. However, he was released the following May and opted to join the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders instead. He caught just one pass for 12 yards but saw plenty of action in the return game as he averaged 8.5 yards per punt return, 21.6 yards per kickoff return and also returned a missed field goal 44 yards.
Earlier this year, Davis made an impact in the USFL as he was 10th in the league in receiving yards and led the league in punt return yardage with an average of over 10 and one touchdown.
Now let’s take a look at what Davis brings to the table, divided into categories.
Davis is undersized but with good speed. His catch radius is extremely small, although he does have average-sized hands.
At his pro day, Davis ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and posted good agility numbers. His explosiveness numbers were about average though and he only managed nine bench press reps.
Davis played primarily in the slot both in college and in his preseason action at the NFL level. With his lack of size, that would be his most likely role in the NFL, although he did line up outside at times at JMU.
As noted, he was a dual threat quarterback in high school and has also carried the ball regularly on jet sweeps while in college. He also played some defensive back in high school.
With his good speed, Davis has shown an ability to get behind the defense in college, in NFL preseason action and in the USFL.
On this play, he blows past the defender from the slot and tracks the ball nicely for an over-the-shoulder grab.
This touchdown came as he released cleanly to the inside. It was arguably a bit of a push-off, but he perhaps gets away with that due to his lack of size. It also looks like the cornerback wanted to pass him off to the deep safety, but Davis completes the catch for his lone preseason touchdown.
Game and practice footage of Davis running routes emphasizes his quickness and ability to change direction quickly and with good balance.
He hasn’t had much of a chance to showcase all his route running abilities at the NFL level, but did pick up the first down on this out route.
Davis hasn’t dropped any passes at the NFL level, although he did muff a kick in preseason action and dropped some passes in college.
His catch rates have generally been a little disappointing, but he does show an ability to adjust to the ball well.
Davis’ only touchdown catch at the NFL level was on a long pass and he only had two in the USFL, although this one saw him find the open area well in the red zone.
While he lacks the size to be a fade option, his quickness and ability to get open early in the play could make him a short pass option out of the slot or he could even be an option on end arounds or jet sweeps. He ended his college career with just 11 touchdown catches in four seasons though.
After the catch
As a return specialist, Davis is obviously a threat if you can get the ball to him in space. Having said that, this didn’t really happen on any of his preseason targets. He broke away for a big gain on this play from the USFL, though.
Davis, who as noted is undersized, doesn’t make much of an impact as a blocker, although he gives a good effort down the field on this long touchdown run.
Despite a lack of size, Davis displays some scrappy tendencies. Here he shows his toughness by hanging onto a third down pass despite a big hit.
Davis didn’t have any penalties in college and hasn’t had any at the NFL level so far either.
The return game is Davis’ calling card. As noted, he had four touchdowns in his senior year in college and also showcased his return abilities in the CFL and USFL:
He has plenty of experience returning both punts and kickoffs, although his kickoff numbers have always been somewhat underwhelming. On punts, his decision making can sometimes leave a lot to be desired.
At the NFL level, he’s yet to break a long return in preseason action and his numbers (21.4 yards per kickoff return, 3.7 yards per punt return) are poor.
Other than in the return game, Davis has had limited exposure to the other units and hasn’t generated any real production.
Instincts and Intelligence
Davis shows some good abilities in terms of finding open areas in coverage and following his blocks and finding running lanes in the open field. However, he can sometimes make mistakes when running routes:
Davis was a member of the CAA all-Academic team in 2014.
Davis is another player who has had to display patience, determination and maturity as he bounces around the league and waits for his shot.
In Tennessee, ahead of the 2020 season, head coach Mike Vrabel singled him out as someone who had worked really hard to get to grips with the playbook during their virtual offseason.
Davis hasn’t had major injury issues during his career so far. He missed some time in his junior year at JMU with an undisclosed injury and was temporarily limited due to a hip issue in the USFL.
Davis has plenty of experience in a variety of systems and will fit into the offense in the slot. However, it’s going to be on special teams where he has his best chance of making an impact.
He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Eagles while Joe Douglas was still with the organization and current Jets who have been his teammate in the past include Eddy Pineiro, Vinny Curry, Tim Ward and Corey Davis.
Unfortunately for Davis, he’s joining a Jets team which boasts all-pro return man Braxton Berrios. However, it might not be a bad role to have if he can win a spot as Berrios’ deputy because then he might get a shot if there’s an injury - either to Berrios himself, or if other receivers get hurt and suddenly Berrios is too important to the offense to risk on returns. Berrios apparently is dealing with minor injury issues already in camp, so Davis can get plenty of work.
He’s probably a long-shot to make the roster, but with a good performance in the preseason Davis has a chance to make it to the practice squad or earn himself an opportunity elsewhere.