GREEN BAY – Trevor Davis hasn’t had a chance to prove he can build on an impressive 2017 as a return man.
It appears Thursday night will be his first opportunity.
Out since the early stages of training camp with a hamstring injury, Davis returned to the practice field on a limited basis Monday with the idea that he’ll get his only preseason action in the finale at Kansas City.
“This is a big week for him, and he knows that,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
In a crowded receiver room with lots of competition for roster spots, Davis possesses two distinguishing features – his speed and his return skills, which of course go hand in hand.
Last season, Davis finished in the top 10 in the NFL on both punt and kickoff returns. His 12.0-yard average on 24 punt returns ranked third, and his 22.8-yard average on 31 kickoff returns ranked eighth.
That’s a strong track record to fall back on, but Davis can’t take a roster spot in 2018 for granted, not when the team drafted three receivers in April, former practice-squad player Jake Kumerow has made such a positive impression, and Davis missed the bulk of OTAs in the spring due to injury.
“I’m out there to make plays and show what I can do, and I can’t try and base everything off past preseasons and seasons,” said Davis, who took a punt back the distance last summer and broke a 65-yard punt return late in the season at Cleveland, which helped the Packers win a game they otherwise might have lost to the winless Browns.
“Every year you have to come into it and battle for a position, especially here where we have great receivers. It’s going to be tough.”
Davis also was one of the team’s top gunners on punt coverage a year ago, posting four tackles. It’s a position that lost Jeff Janis in free agency, so the former fifth-round pick could help there as well.
The whole package is important, and Davis would love to compete for snaps on offense and work his way up the receiver depth chart as a third-year pro, too.
But in a year no one else has emerged yet as a home-run threat on returns, it’s his work on special teams that separates him right now. If that can earn him a spot, he’ll take it and try to make up for lost time in other areas later.
“It’s versatility. In this league, that’s kind of what you need when you’re not a top three receiver,” Davis said. “I’ve learned that because having Jordy and Randall and ’Te here, you have to. If you’re going to make this team – kind of like Jeff Janis – if you’re not going to be those top three guys, you have to do something in a game.”
Davis wishes he’d gotten back to practice sooner, but he had to listen to the training staff and stay on their timetable. It’s put him in a difficult spot, trying to make the team with just one preseason performance, but special teams coordinator Ron Zook has continually referenced Davis in interviews this summer, an indication his abilities are long from forgotten.
“He’s proven some things in this league, and we have a history there, so you evaluate that part of it,” General Manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He’s still a young player, still on an upward trend where he’s at in his career. You have to weigh it all.”
Davis said he felt pretty good at practice on Monday and expects to be able to go full speed in Thursday’s game. The natural tendency will be to push himself to make a first and final impression for this camp, so he’ll have to guard against compromising himself physically or mentally with so much at stake.
He’s confident in his game, that he’ll get his chance, and that he’ll seize the moment when it arrives.
“I just have to go out there and make the plays that come to me, and not try and reach out there to try and make plays,” he said. “Because at the end of the day you can’t do more than you’re capable of. You have to just go out there, be comfortable, and if a play comes to you, make it.”
The Packers held their last training-camp practice Monday inside the Don Hutson Center