The Washington Times - August 3, 2012, 01:27PM

Tight end Fred Davis was on pace to be the Redskins’ leading receiver last season when he was suspended for the final four games for repeatedly violating the NFL’s drug policy. His performance was evidence of an evolution he says results from being a better student of the game.

“When you’re in this league, you grow,” Davis said Friday after the team’s walkthrough. “You learn from other players. You watch other players. You see different things, so as a player you have to grow if you want to be one of those top players in this league.

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“I think I became a better blocker, definitely watching Chris [Cooley] and some other guys in the league that block pretty well. Route running, I think I got a lot better at that, as well. Definitely studying film, too. That’s something I never really did in college as much. I learned from a lot of veteran guys how to study and how to actually watch the film and break down certain things.”

Entering his fifth NFL season, Davis now gets more out of watching film than he ever has.

“Just watching certain coverages against different defenses, knowing how to adjust my route at a certain time, come out of a route early if I’m hot,” he said. “Start seeing things before they happen. When I first got in the league, I didn’t really do that as well.”

Considering his hiatus from game action is four weeks longer than many of his Redskins teammates’, he’s understandably eager to play in Washington’s preseason opener at Buffalo on Thursday.

Davis and the rest of the first stringers are expected to play 12-20 plays, coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday.

“It definitely will have a good feeling just to be back out there with your teammates making plays, hopefully on the road to getting a victory,” Davis said. “I don’t know how many snaps we’ll play out there, but hopefully all of them that we play I’ll play as hard as I can.”

This is a big season for Davis’ career. As the Redskins’ franchise player, he’s on a one-year, $5.446 million contract with no room for a repeat of last season’s drug fiasco.

“If you start thinking about money and the future, sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you want it to happen,” Davis said. “I just focus on playing right now and playing at the same high level that I did last year. The money ain’t gonna change me, I feel like. I feel like I’m going to work as hard as I am now.”

Davis is well established as a receiving threat, but improving his blocking - something he still must prove - would make him the complete player the Redskins need.