We’re back at it with yet another article on a receiver, but this time this is actually a receiver that has played with the Titans.
The fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft, Corey Davis was held back in his rookie season by injuries, where he only played in 11 games and finished with under 400 receiving yards and no touchdowns in the regular season (He did have two touchdowns in that postseason). 2018 was much more generous to him, as he started all 16 games and caught 65 passes for 891 yards, 13.7 yards per reception, and four touchdowns.
Davis was also a huge weapon on third downs, as his 20 first down catches on third downs was tied for the eighth most in all of 2018. His eight first down catches on 3rd and >7 was tied for third most as well.
Davis was drafted to be the Titans’ WR1, and while the team hasn’t had a 1,000 yard receiver since 2013 (the longest such drought), he has the talent to change that in 2019. And with a better cast of receivers to play with, he should get an easier opportunity as well.
I’ve talked numerous times about how Davis has been the Titans’ only consistent vertical threat in 2018, and that’s still the case going through his tape.
Davis’ route running ability is smooth and he combines that with natural ball skills. Let’s take a look at an example of that here.
Davis runs a double move that would make Jordy Nelson proud and has plenty of separation to create an open window for Marcus Mariota to deliver the ball into. The pass is slightly under thrown, but Davis uses nice, strong hands to haul it in anyway for a big gain.
Here’s how it all transpires.
Davis is far from a one-trick pony though. He’s an extremely well-rounded receiver with the ability to win in any area of the field: Underneath, intermediate or deep.
Take this play against the Cowboys for example.
Davis uses quick, stuttering footwork to work his way outside off the snap, then makes an agile turn on the curl route. He wins at the catch point by boxing out the corner, using aggressive hands to pull the pass in to move the chains. The entire route is just smooth, and Davis shows his capabilities against press coverage as well.
Davis also had one of his finest statistical performances to date against the Patriots, catching seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
One of the major reasons for Davis being drafted in the top five was his catch radius. There weren’t very many examples of him being forced to adjust at the catch point, but whenever he did, he impressed.
The pass from Mariota on third and short is behind even though he has a clean pocket. The route clearing on the trips formation gives the quarterback an easy read, and while he makes it, Davis has to go to the extremes to secure this pass.
Notice how Davis is able to stop himself long enough to make sure he has a shot at this catch. NFL.com described Davis as “a quarterback’s friend who works aggressively back to the ball,” and that’s the case here as he makes a spectacular adjustment for the third down conversion.
This next example will be a little different, as it comes on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage.
As you can see, Davis is motioned to the left of Mariota and is immediately faced with press coverage. On further inspection we can also see efforts of patience in his route, where he controls his speed and uses an impressive move off the line of scrimmage to get himself open.
As aforementioned, the pass is deflected at the LOS for an incomplete pass, but this play is still valuable in evaluating who Davis is and who he can become. His ability against man and press coverage shows exactly why Tennessee loved him with the fifth pick in 2017.
Davis has been stereotyped as a 50/50 vertical threat, though he is much more than that.
Another exciting aspect to Davis’ game—and one he doesn’t get enough credit for—is his work as an underneath receiver. Davis’ presence explains why the Titans passes on underneath threats like Parris Campbell and N’Keal Harry, and he works well to get yards after the catch.
Once again this is a curl route from the receiver...
...and just when it looks like Davis will be brought down well short of the first down marker...
...he escapes and moves the chains anyway.
Now, Davis fakes a shallow out route, instead coming back on the curl. He sells this well, granting him enough separation to make a clean catch. But it’s the spatial awareness—the quick juke right as he gets the ball in his hands—that’s really impressive. Davis uses this to break into the open field for an improbable first down.
Corey Davis has the talent of a top 20 receiver. He’s a quick, impactful route runner with the ability to win in the short, intermediate, and deep parts of the field. As any competent receiver can, he can win against zone coverage, and as a great receiver should, can win against man coverage and against press.
So Davis is a very well rounded receiver with strong receiving ability and a great catch radius. He also does a nice job of putting himself in a position where he can create yards after the catch, possessing quick jukes or even using his awareness to adjust his footwork to put himself in a position to succeed for that particular aspect.
The problem with Davis was beyond his control in 2018, as no one else on the Titans receiving corps was worth a damn in comparison. Delanie Walker was out for nearly the entire season, Taywan Taylor couldn’t stop dropping the ball, Tajae Sharpe—while not bad—wasn’t particularly explosive.
So with the addition of Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown, this should make Davis’ situation that much easier. He’ll still face tougher coverage, but with more threats on the receiving end, he should easily eclipse 1,000 yards. Davis is a really good receiver and I have no problem proclaiming he should have a great junior year in the NFL.