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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Davenport feeling more comfortable

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07151/790374-66.stm

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


    Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
    "It was like a clean slate: Every Sunday, you erase. Come back every Monday and learn new stuff," says Najeh Davenport, seen here last season when he signed with the Steelers the day after the start of 2006 play.

    The way Najeh Davenport measures it, a football player is only as fast as his field intelligence, his grasp of the game plan, his comprehension of the playbook.

    And, man, he feels his brain synapse at 4.4, 4.5 speed nowadays.

    It's a completely different Steelers state of mind from last fall.

    "He had to learn everything on the run last year," new Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians recalled of the backup running back, who was signed the day after the team's 2006 season opener. "It was really game plan to game plan. Now he's learning the nuances of the offense."

    "It was like a clean slate: Every Sunday, you erase. Come back every Monday and learn new stuff," said Davenport.

    He laughed yesterday, amid the second week of organized team activity on the South Side, about his personal acuity change the past five months or so. "Now you don't have to think about stuff, go over plays in your head, go crazy with reads: the safety...," he continued. "You aren't thinking about it."

    Suddenly, it's all reaction time.

    Such as the 20-yard-plus romp down the left sideline toward the end of team drills yesterday. Davenport felt so good, so comfortable, that he quickly flashed his a straight arm toward the helmet of oncoming safety Anthony Smith as if to say: I got you now.

    "I was just finishing off, showing him that I saw him and that was what he was going get," Davenport said with a grin. "I don't think he knew that I saw him. Sort of surprised him. Now he realizes."

    It's the brand of Davenport moment that causes Arians to remark about the alteration, the assimilation, in the player who used to capably back up Ahman Green in Green Bay: "He looks explosive."

    Before anyone prematurely closes the competition for The Next Jerome Bettis, that burly back to complement fast Willie Parker -- it is still May, after all -- Davenport merely presents an option that may be overlooked. He was a last-ditch pickup one game into the 2006 season, a longtime Packers backup coming off a broken ankle the October before and a newcomer to the Steelers' system. After all, as he put it, he spent so much time in the West Coast offense, he felt the protection scheme was something "you learned since you were knee-high." The Steelers' way, even down to their numbering system, was so foreign that this five-year veteran admittedly lost focus.

    Perhaps that renders slightly even more remarkable the statistics he was able to compile as Parker's top backup, once Verron Haynes' season ended with a knee injury against Oakland. Davenport finished with 221 yards rushing on 60 carries for a 3.7-yard average. He amassed 15 catches for 193 yards and a 12.9-yard average that ranked behind Nate Washington (17.8), Santonio Holmes (16.8), Hines Ward (13.6) and Cedric Wilson (13.2) among regular Steelers receivers. Moreover, his receiving yardage was only 29 yards fewer than Parker, and on half as many catches. Finally, his 20 kickoff returns topped the team and his 430 return yards (for a 21.5-yard average) were only 6 fewer on two more returns than Holmes.

    In short, he was productive while cramming for weekly quizzes last year. Imagine how he might perform understanding everything on the exam.

    It's a constant study, too: "I'm definitely getting these OTAs in," Davenport said. This from a 6-foot-1, 247-pound worker who spent one offseason shedding 20 pounds via pickup basketball and Jenny Craig.

    The arrival of veteran Kevan Barlow, the seven-year veteran from Pitt and Peabody signed as a free agent three weeks ago, merely means to Davenport more competition. Especially at a running back spot where the rehabilitating Haynes could be re-signed and return by next fall.

    "I think the more the better," Davenport said. "We sit down and talk as running backs, and I tell them about when I was in college [at Miami]. We didn't have a lot of balls to go around, not even a lot of reps. I think in college, we'd have a two-hour practice, and I'd get maybe 15 reps the whole practice. We had guys like Edgerrin James, James Jackson, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore. ... Everybody was trying to get snaps. So you got guys running scout offense. In my case, I played fullback to get on the field."

    Return kicks. Catch swing passes from the backfield. Contribute, concentrate, comprehend. It's simplistic, but it's the same path Davenport followed to success in Green Bay, starting just two of 39 games -- rushing for 178 yards on 19 carries in a 2004 Monday night telecast against St. Louis, and scoring two touchdowns before breaking an ankle against New Orleans in 2005.

    He started to show similar signs late last season, when he subbed for Parker and rushed on three consecutive plays for 27 yards against Cincinnati, when he scored on a first-quarter pass against Carolina, when he combined for 83 yards rushing and receiving against Cleveland. That was a marginally different offense, under a different head coach, with a radically scattered Steelers-system mind-set under Davenport's helmet.

    Nowadays, he said, "you know what's coming. You know everything. You ain't got to think about it."
    This is Davenports chance to make his mark. This is his 2nd season with us now and he's got this whole offseason and now camp coming up too to solidify that number 2 spot behind Willie. We need him to assert himself and take this job and leave no doubt about it. We can't have him getting it by default because nobody else was good enough.

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    I'm hoping every RB in camp pushes each other so hard that it might come down to being a hard choice on who stays and who goes.


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    Draft Pick 25MVPKing's Avatar
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    I liked what I saw out of Davenport last year. For those of you who don't like Najeh Davenport (which seems to be most of you), is it because of what you saw last year or at Green Bay and/or Miami?

    I think for coming in after camp and after the season started, he did a decent job and I hope he can step it up big time this year.
    Hotlink it and spread the love!

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    2nd String Blitzburghpete's Avatar
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    25MVPKing

    I liked what I saw out of Davenport last year. For those of you who don't like Najeh Davenport (which seems to be most of you),


    Nah 25MVPKing, i'm on the i think Davenport is class side. I think he is hugley underated and think he will do well for us.

    Pete

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    My biggest beef with Dookie is he seems to always have nagging injuries in which he did with the Packers and he doesn't run like a RB his size should. People look at his size and think Bus but he runs like a bigger version of Willie Parker....I think he could very well be a very good third down back especially if learns to pick up the blitz on a consistent basis...He runs the screen pass very well.

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    I didn't follow his carreer before coming to us, so I can't comment on that.

    I am however, one of the ones who liked his style and ability on the field for us last year. I knew that he was new to our system, so I didn't expect as much out of him, but I was still impressed with what I saw flashin under the surface--what he could bring given the chance of learnin from the beginin of the season.

    So if he doesn't get injured, I think I'll be mightily impressed by his feats on the field if he's good enough to earn that spot.

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    2nd String Blitzburghpete's Avatar
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    Black@Gold Forever32 posted My biggest beef with Dookie is he seems to always have nagging injuries

    Hi mate, this does annoy me when people comment about injuries and players. Do you really think players go out and get injuries on purpose to stop them playing? Sure work ethic in the gym can beef you up and protect you against them to an extent but you can't critize players for getting injuries, they just happen.
    And if they claimed to have injuries that they don;t have or are minor i'm sure the managment would find them out and do something about them.

    And only judge Najeh and what he's done in Pitt colours, cos that all i care about.

    And if you haven't guessed yet i'm a fan of his!!!

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blitzburghpete View Post
    Black@Gold Forever32 posted My biggest beef with Dookie is he seems to always have nagging injuries

    Hi mate, this does annoy me when people comment about injuries and players. Do you really think players go out and get injuries on purpose to stop them playing? Sure work ethic in the gym can beef you up and protect you against them to an extent but you can't critize players for getting injuries, they just happen.
    And if they claimed to have injuries that they don;t have or are minor i'm sure the managment would find them out and do something about them.

    And only judge Najeh and what he's done in Pitt colours, cos that all i care about.

    And if you haven't guessed yet i'm a fan of his!!!
    Annoy....This isn't your site so sorry if you're annoyed.... Dude come on you can't be serious?......If you're getting this bent out of shape from my post then you might not want to stick around here at SA when the season starts and if the Steelers lose a game....Then you really might be annoyed from some of the post from some of us members...

    Yes injuries happen...Football is a physical game and I don't need a Brit to tell me that...lol I have been watching the NFL for years thank you....But when a player continues to have nagging injuries then you could look at him as a soft player.

    Have a nice day....

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    K Train's Avatar
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    i think his nagging injuries are kinda overrated, hes pretty solid if you ask me. But i do think that he is a soft runner, ive seen him light up a few defenders but most of the time hes gonna try to outrun you, hes a fat willie parker, only parker falls forward when he runs lol. I like him though, and while i refuse to refer to him as dookie i look forward to seeing what he can do

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    2nd String Blitzburghpete's Avatar
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    Annoy....This isn't your site so sorry if you're annoyed.... Dude come on you can't be serious?......If you're getting this bent out of shape from my post then you might not want to stick around here at SA when the season starts and if the Steelers lose a game....Then you really might be annoyed from some of the post from some of us members...



    LOL nah im not serious and don't get me wrong i'm not stomping up and down "getting bent out of shape " or steaming bout this mate, far from it, just i think it's unfair to knock players for gettng injured, thats all, as it's not their fault, ergo don't knock Najeh for getting ... well ..... knocked!!!


    Football is a physical game and I don't need a Brit to tell me that -
    Mate lol or not i didn't appreciate that.

    If your worried that because i'm "english" i therefore don't know what i'm talking about FYI i am currently the QB for Team England Flag american football. ( i have also represented my country as a baseball pitcher )

    I have followed / studied / played football for 28 years.
    My point is, don't diss what i say cos i'm english therefore you think i don't know about football. K?

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