S. Davis' star falls out of sight

Mediocrity of Redskins casts shadow over back's shining yardage results

September 24, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Ask Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis a silly question, like whether he should be considered one of the NFL's elite backs, and be ready to get bowled over head-on, just as an opposition linebacker would.

"Yeah. Why shouldn't I be?" Davis said after a practice last week. "I've been in the top five or 10 rushers the last two years. I'm a guy who works hard, and I do what it takes to get prepared. You just have to go out and do it, and I've been doing it for the last two years, but I don't want to stop there. I want to keep going."

Indeed, Davis, who ran for 1,318 yards last year, good for 10th overall in the league, and an NFC-best 1,405 yards in 1999, has amassed 2,723 yards over the past two seasons. That's fourth overall, placing Davis behind only Indianapolis' Edgerrin James (3,262), Tennessee's Eddie George (2,813) and St. Louis' Marshall Faulk (2,740).

And while Davis' 622 carries over that span places him behind James (756), George (723) and Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis (654), he is more than 100 carries ahead of his next closest NFC competitor, the now retired Robert Smith of Minnesota, who ran the ball 516 times in the past two seasons.

"I feel like every opportunity to carry the ball is like my last. That's my mind-set out there" said Davis, who leads the Redskins against host Green Bay tonight. "Monday night is special. My family's going to see, my boys [friends] are going to see it, and most importantly the Lord is going to be looking down on me."

So, if Davis has the durability and the yardage to place him among the elite, why don't more people know about him?

Part of Davis' lack of attention likely stems from the Redskins' having reached the postseason just once (1999) in his six seasons. Two of the three backs with more yardage than Davis, Faulk and George, each have Super Bowl appearances, and James has led the league in rushing in each of the past two seasons.

In other words, James, Faulk and George have been in the spotlight, while Davis has labored in relative obscurity on a mediocre team. If the Redskins' paltry offense, which produced only three points in a 27-point drubbing by San Diego in the opener, doesn't get better quickly, Davis' labors may become even more obscure.

"We can't go out and throw interceptions and fumble the ball. If we go out and move the ball as we're capable of doing and run our offense the way it's supposed to be run, we can put some points on the board," Davis said.

Davis didn't help his cause much against the Chargers, running for only 35 yards on 14 carries. Even worse, the usually reliable Davis, who is fifth on the Redskins' all-time rushing list, fumbled twice.

"You don't say it was one game. You learn from the game. I'm a pro and I've been through games like that. Everyone doesn't have a perfect game," Davis said. "The Lord has given me talent and I've been blessed to go out and play every week. I just have to go out and play and not worry about it. That's the past. We have to deal with the future."

With the Redskins' quarterbacking situation in flux, and coach Marty Schottenheimer pledging to focus on converting third-and-short situations for this week, Davis' immediate future should involve a lot of carries, provided there isn't a repeat of last week.

"In the game against San Diego, we didn't run the ball because we had turnovers and we got behind," Davis said. "If we control the line of scrimmage and do the things it takes to win, meaning running the ball and throwing the short pass, we'll win."

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