Redskins' understudy will play leading role Davis thrives as fill-in for running back Allen

October 23, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Think of the fun Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis could have this weekend if he were the fun-loving and adventuresome type on the football field.

Davis could poke a little fun at his old high school friend, Peter Boulware, and vow to run rings around the Ravens linebacker on Sunday, when the two meet on an NFL field for the first time.

But Davis refused yesterday to stoke any of Boulware's fires before the Washington-Baltimore NFL football rivalry is renewed at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

"Peter and I go way back to our high school days in South Carolina," said Davis, who will be starting in place of the injured Terry Allen on Sunday. "I know him well, but I haven't talked to him for a long time and definitely won't be talking to him this week. The only thing I want to say about Peter and the Ravens' linebackers is they have a lot of speed."

Davis, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn in 1996, played his high school football in Spartanburg, S.C., where as a senior he was the Football News National Player of the Year and the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year. Boulware, the Ravens' No. 1 selection this year, had a decorated high school career in Columbia, S.C.

Although there has been some speculation that Allen (sprained left knee) might play Sunday, he dispelled that idea yesterday.

"I'm upset because I'll be on the sideline Sunday," Allen said. "I would love to play, but they won't let me. I guess it wouldn't be too smart. But if it were the last game of the season, I'd play."

That leaves Davis in the spotlight again, and he is preparing quietly, as he has all year when called on to play for Allen.

It would be easy for Davis to get a little cocky this week. He will be running against a Ravens defense that has been exploited the past two games by the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis (28 carries, 137 yards) and Miami Dolphins' Karim Abdul-Jabbar (22, 108).

However, Davis said the Ravens might work extra hard this week to stop the run and "that will make things harder for me."

"I feel good about where I am as a runner for all I've been through this year," said Davis, 6 feet, 234 pounds, who had to fight off a training-camp injury and then survive the infamous beating by teammate Michael Westbrook on Aug. 19 on the sideline at a Redskins practice.

Davis has said often the run-in with Westbrook is "behind us."

For a man who doesn't like being the center of attention, Davis often finds himself surrounded by reporters.

First, there was the Westbrook incident. Then, Davis came off the bench in the first quarter on "Monday Night Football" after Allen sprained his knee and took over the game with 22 rushes for 94 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

There is no question that Davis gives defenses a completely different look from Allen.

Davis is 2 inches taller and 26 pounds heavier, loves to run high and has the speed to bounce outside quickly. Allen is a low-to-the-ground runner who rarely goes outside.

"Although we didn't come out ready to play Sunday against the Oilers [in a 28-14 loss], Stephen gave us two good runs early of 8 and 11 yards," Washington coach Norv Turner said yesterday. "I'm looking for him to come up with a big game for us real soon. It's no secret he isn't the physical runner inside like Terry, but he can give us an opportunity to run the ball."

Redskins fullback Marc Logan said opponents have trouble figuring out Davis because "they underestimate his speed."

"There's a difference between football speed and sheer speed in the 40," Logan said. "Stephen has incredible football speed, and he is a powerful runner. He can run over you, through you or around you."

In contrast, Logan said, Allen relies more on straight-ahead running mixed with a "lot of moves that make people miss tackles."

If there is one phase of the game Davis needs to work on, it is his blocking.

"Every time I come off the field, Terry talks to me all the time about a certain block I should have thrown," Davis said. "He tells me I can push with my hands. That's something I need to work on."

Redskins at a glance

Last game: Lost to Tennessee, 28-14, Sunday.

Last meeting with Ravens: This is the teams' first meeting.

Who's hot: The Redskins at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, where they've won their first three games. Veteran cornerback Darrell Green, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, had seven tackles in Sunday's loss to the Oilers. Wide receiver Henry Ellard, who had six catches for 84 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns Sunday, is 11 grabs away from becoming just the fifth receiver to catch 800 passes. Marvcus Patton looks comfortable at his new middle linebacker position. He is the team's second-leading tackler with 90.

Who's not: Gus Frerotte threw for 228 yards and two TDs last week but was picked off three times in the second half, giving him nine interceptions and leaving him only two shy of his total for all of last season. His quarterback rating of 72.2 ranks him 23rd in the NFL. The Redskins are 4-1 in games that Terry Allen has started and 0-2 in games he has been inactive. Allen is doubtful for Sunday's game with a knee injury.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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