October 20, 2003
Man of the Century
by Keith Weiland
That clicking sound you hear is the tickety-clack hum of fantasy football owners massaging their keybaords to surf league waiver wires in search of Domanick Davis. With his combined 199 yards of offense against the Jets, Davis is quickly becoming the latest unheralded running back to make a splash in the NFL.
Drafted out of the fourth round from Louisiana State, Davis was expected to offer his new team the services of a third down, change-of-pace back and a possible kickoff returner. After struggling four years in college to establish himself as an everydown back, Davis is doing just that in his first year with the Texans.
Before Sunday’s game against the Jets, Davis averaged almost five yards per carry in relief of Stacey Mack and Tony Hollings, and often in garbage time. His production, however, did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff. When the Texans were driving late against the Jaguars in Week Four, it was Davis, not Mack or Hollings, playing key snaps and gaining critical yardage in the last-play victory.
Against the Jets, Davis didn’t have to wait his turn any longer. Rewarding head coach Dom Capers with the decision to start him, Davis earned the not-so-trivial right to the title of the franchise’s inaugural 100-yard back.
In doing so, Davis showed why he can be so much more than a situation player. He is quick to the hole, and even quicker to decide where he should cut. Taking a page from another unheralded running back from a big conference college, Davis waits for, then follows his blocks like Kansas City’s Priest Holmes, the league’s premier multi-dimensional threat.
Of course Davis is not Holmes, nor should fans expect him to be, but Davis might only be scratching the surface of his talent. So might the future be even brighter than the present for Davis? If the Texans’ line is average at best today, what might Davis be capable of behind a line like the one Holmes has in Kansas City?
Still, the question entering the Jets game was whether Davis’ per carry production was just a fluke, the type of statistical anomaly produced when extracted from a thin slice of reality. Davis stomped all over those questions by rushing the ball a whopping 27 times and maintaining his 4.8-yard average.
Toss in another nine receptions for 70 yards, and the Texans have found themselves the key ingredient to a successful offense: balance. With a buregeoning receiver corps, the Texans’ offense needed a productive all-purpose back to keep defenses guessing. And the team thought they found that back this summer, only his name wasn’t Domanick, but rather Tony.
So where does this leave Hollings, the Texans’ second round supplemental pick? For now, it leaves him on the bench. Since Davis has yet to prove he can shoulder thirty-plus touches a game across a full sixteen game season, Hollings is far from obsolete. He will get his chances.
That is, at least until Davis stops proving everyone wrong, and at this rate, that may be a long time coming.
Tune in, drop out… Halfway through the college season, so it’s time for the mid-terms.
Arkansas @ Mississippi, 6:15pm CT, ESPN2 – You’re watching this game not to see another Manning sibling play quarterback this weekend, but to catch-up on how Razorback offensive lineman Shawn Andrews (6’5″ 370) is doing. With the injury to the Texans’ Greg Randall against the Jets, rookie Seth Wand stepped in, looked confused, and gave up a huge sack that took the Texans out of field goal range. He’ll learn, but even if he does, Wand might be better suited to play the left side. That works just fine for Andrews if he becomes a Texan. He’s a classic right tackle if there ever was one. Hard to say a man his size is light on his feet, but he is, and he can bully the best of them, too.
Keith Weiland may never be the Man of the Century, but if he wanted to bad enough, he could be the Man Who Drove a Buick Century. He just doesn’t want to, that’s all.