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Corey Davis Film Review: Winning with Technique

A look at Tennessee’s new receiving threat, who has mastered the little details of his game.

NCAA Football: MAC Championship-Western Michigan at Ohio Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first things mentioned when breaking down Corey Davis is how polished a player he really is, and that aspect of his game will be the focus of this film review. Davis wasn’t the fastest prospect in the draft. He wasn’t the strongest or most physically imposing. When describing physical traits, he isn’t the “best” in most categories. What makes Corey Davis successful is that he pairs above average physical ability with refined technique. He does the little things right.

Below, I have a routine play from Davis against Toledo. He’s runs a seven yard hitch route, then tacks on four more by attacking the defender. This is a pretty boring, standard play in college and the NFL. Its brought up as an example here because Davis must work to move the defensive back. Before the snap, the corner is sitting about seven yards off the line of scrimmage, right where Davis is supposed to stop. To run the route successfully, Davis has to sell that he’s going to break in a different direction. He accomplishes this with a little stutter step (and potentially small shoulder fake). This causes the DB to jump two yards backwards, anticipating a change of direction. The added YAC is the finishing touch.

Davis will use similar technique for a different route on the next example, this time against Buffalo. This one is an out route. Again the defensive back has given him plenty of cushion from the LOS. Davis attacks similarly to the first play - the DB is forced back, Davis slows ever so slightly and then explodes out of his break towards the sideline.

Once again Davis adds on some yards after catch. You can see his head swivel outside once he’s caught the ball. I can’t tell if he’s checking for a defender (my guess) or intentionally faking, but either way it worked.

Time to see something different. Our next play shows off some of Davis’ experience. He’s up against zone coverage, running a dig route. He has to work to find the space in the zone. He gets behind the first Buffalo player, but ensures he stays in front of the safety over top. The safety looks like he’s caught flat footed on the initial coverage, making this an easy catch. The TV angle cuts off his full route, so there are two views below.

There is a very similar play against Ball State. This time Davis runs a post route against man coverage. The corner has given him an eight yard cushion. Just before his break, Davis quickly fakes outside. You have to watch closely to pick up on it. Here’s the link to DraftBreakdown’s YouTube video if you prefer slow motion (scroll to the 1:43 mark). This fake causes the corner to flip his hips towards the sideline, and Davis now has an easy path. His opponent is forced to swing all the way around but by the time he does, there are still several yards separating the two players. Perhaps more importantly, only one of them is at full speed.

Getting a clear image was tricky, so this one below will have to do. This is right when Davis fakes outside. The corner is now facing the sideline.

Here’s the full route:

These plays are only a small sample of why the little nuances to a receiver’s game are so important. One of the big concerns for Corey Davis was that he played in the MAC. One of the things that should alleviate that concern is that he can win in such a variety of ways, hopefully making his transition the NFL smoother. He’s strong and fast but those aren’t the only reasons he was able to dominate his conference. Its about how he puts it all together. The physical traits blend with expert technique to create the total package at receiver.

Here is an underrated touchdown from Corey Davis’ career, demonstrating those very attributes. The TV angle loses the route but its worth seeing first:

It doesn’t look all that impressive, right?

Now its time to check the replay. Davis fakes outside, goes inside for two steps, and then breaks to the sideline. Oh, and the DB was also flagged for defensive holding on this play. It didn’t matter. I’ll let the Tweet end off the article: