NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans receiver Corey Davis was stellar in the team’s season opener on Monday, and he’ll need to build off of that success as the season progresses.
Davis, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020, led the Titans with seven catches for 101 yards, helping them edge out the Broncos and start the season 1-0.
“I’m really proud of Corey and his effort, his ability to go and attack the football, and really help us there in some big situations,” head coach Mike Vrabel said after the game. “I thought that was a real positive to see.”
But for the fourth-year wideout to earn a big second NFL contract, whether from the Titans or another team, he’ll need to prove that he can consistently make an impact, something he’s failed to do thus far in his career.
THE NEED FOR CONSISTENCY
Corey Davis was easily the #Titans‘ best player in the first half. Running good routes and giving Tannehill a lot of help.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) September 15, 2020
The goal of every NFL player—and if it’s not, it should be—is to be consistent. They want to be the same player week in and week out. If they’re not, it can be challenging for their teammates.
“It’s hard to rely on those types of people throughout the course of the year,” Vrabel said. “You just never know what you’re going to get, whether that’s at an elite level or a very good level or even just a good level.”
That’s what Davis has been for the Titans since the team drafted him in 2017. He’ll have a great performance one week and be nearly invisible the next.
His production in 2019 was so underwhelming that Titans fans coming to his defense during offseason debates and discussions following the season often cited Davis’ run-blocking skills before bringing up anything related to catching the football.
And while Davis is certainly a great run blocker—star running back Derrick Henry frequently raves about his abilities in that regard—he needs to be and can be more than that for the Titans.
“We know what he does in the blocking game. He has strong hands as a receiver. He’s a playmaker,” Henry said.
“CIRCUMSTANCES OUT OF THEIR CONTROL”
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 15, 2020
Why has Davis struggled so much with consistency in his career?
It certainly has nothing to do with his routine during the week, which Vrabel characterized as being “pretty critical” to finding consistency.
Adam Humphries, one of Davis’ teammates in the Titans’ receiver room, said Davis “is working his tail off every day at practice,” adding, “he’s paid his dues.”
A better explanation as to why consistency has eluded Davis is the fact that his NFL career has been pretty bumpy.
He’s dealt with a series of nagging injuries, most notably a toe issue that plagued him throughout the entirety of the 2019 season. He’s also had to play in multiple different schemes because of coaching changes.
Those factors are perhaps why Davis, undeniably a physical specimen, has never been able to put it all together for the Titans and become the No. 1 receiver they drafted him to be in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“You go back and look at his rookie year, he missed a lot of time,” offensive coordinator Arthur Smith said. “He changed systems. There are multiple factors—these aren’t excuses. Everybody’s different. Sometimes for guys, it clicks at different times. There are circumstances out of their control.”
Smith’s point is certainly more than fair, particularly what he said about injuries.
Injuries do more than hamper a player’s physical abilities—they force players to sit out of games, which can have the effect of pushing the reset button on any progress gained to that point in the season.
“It’s easy for people to kind of get lost in the rehab mode,” said Humphries, who sat out seven games at the end of the 2019 season. “Waking up early, going to treatment. You know you’re not playing, so you kind of lose your focus at times.”
The question left for Davis to answer in 2020 as he looks to build off of his big opening game is whether the hardships he’s faced in the NFL will prove to have been permanently damaging, or whether they were merely obstacles in the way of an ultimately successful NFL career.
Davis’ quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, seems to think that the latter will prove to be true.
“I have a ton of confidence in Corey,” Tannehill said. “He’s a great player and extremely talented, and he made some huge plays for us on Monday night.
“I have a ton of confidence in Corey and look for more good things going forward.”
Cover image: Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today
EDITORIAL NOTE: Davis was not available for comment, as the Titans’ locker room is closed to reporters due to COVID-19.