GREEN BAY – This wasn’t how the month of August was supposed to go for Trevor Davis.
Coming off a strong spring in which he looked like a player new Head Coach Matt LaFleur could utilize in multiple ways in his offense, Davis carried it over to the start of training camp and was making plays on a daily basis, including under the Lambeau Field lights on Family Night.
But then a hard, unnecessary hit in a special-teams drill in the first joint practice with the Houston Texans on Aug. 5 gave him a stinger and sidelined him for one day shy of two full weeks.
Davis returned to the practice field on Sunday and then showed up in several facets offensively on Monday, picking up where he left off. But as the Packers head to Canada to face the Raiders in their third preseason game on Thursday, Davis has yet to put any live, in-game snaps on film in the heated competition at wide receiver.
It’s far from the ideal situation for Davis, particularly after a 2018 season lost to injury, but he’s ready to continue making his bid for 2019.
“That was encouraging,” LaFleur said of Davis’ impressive practice on Monday, when he got the ball on an end-around, a shovel pass, an intermediate throw or two, and a deep ball, showcasing the various ways he can be used.
“I’m excited to watch him in the game.”
It will be interesting to see just how much work Davis gets in Winnipeg. Because in addition to any snaps he gets at receiver, he’s on all the core four special-teams units.
Who gets the first shot Thursday on punt and kickoff return between Davis and undrafted rookie receiver Darrius Shepherd remains to be seen, after Shepherd ran back a kickoff to the 40-yard line last week at Baltimore. But Davis is also a top gunner on punt coverage and on the first kickoff coverage unit.
He just wants to play as much as the coaches will let him, well aware that given what he’s dealt with the last two years, he’s fighting the “injury-prone” label, fair or not. He was consistently healthy his first two seasons after arriving in Green Bay as a 2016 fifth-round draft pick out of Cal.
“My goal is just to show up on film every single play,” Davis said. “It doesn’t really come down big plays or how many catches you get. At the end of the day, you want to have a good rep every single rep.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t always come your way, sometimes you might not be able to have splash plays others can see, but on film, it (shows) things. You might be able to make a block that gives a touchdown. You might be able to make a tackle on special teams.”
It was one of those little things that produced his big catch on Monday. On a play-action deep shot from Tim Boyle, the speedy Davis had to slow up a little bit and found himself between two converging defenders. He kept his arms down and put his hands out low at the last possible instant as the ball dropped, hauling it in and preventing either defender from reacting soon enough to get a deflection.
“Late hands” is a technique Davis executes well because he’s also worked on it as a punt returner, for self-preservation as much as anything.
“I need late hands when I catch punts because I don’t want their gunners to smack the hell out of me,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, I don’t want them to know I’m catching the ball, so you have to do something like that on a daily basis.”
Despite dealing with another injury and seeing the competition change shape in his absence as Shepherd and Allen Lazard raised their profiles, Davis remains confident in what he brings to the table.
He said he knows all the perimeter positions on offense and believes he can be effective from the slot, on jet-sweep action, going deep downfield, or “wherever need be.” For what it’s worth, he’s got Aaron Rodgers on his side, even as the quarterback acknowledged how the landscape at receiver has constantly been altered this month.
“The tough thing about having so many guys, if you miss a little bit of time, you’re trying to jump back in the mix,” Rodgers said. “Trevor has a different skill set, though. When he’s healthy, he has the ability to be a top-flight return guy in the punt and in the kickoff game.
“He’s the type of X vertical receiver that Matt and this offense really likes, the ability to really use your speed and get on top and clear the top off, or run some of those deep in-breaking and out-breaking routes. He needs to get back in and make some plays and remind us how important he’s been to this squad and the playmaking ability he has.”
In a perfect world, Davis would have nailed down his roster spot by now and rendered conversations about the younger up-and-comers less relevant. But the fourth-year pro is where he is, and even if the past month had gone exactly as hoped, he’d be the last guy to take anything for granted anyway.
He’s ready to state his case.
“I kind of always feel like I have something to prove, even if I was fifth, sixth or seventh year,” Davis said. “Either way, it doesn’t really matter to me. I approach it the same every day, and I come out here to compete and not feel like anything’s solidified, ever.”