- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

When the Washington Redskins took three pass-catchers in the second round of the 2008 draft, it was a gamble that receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas and tight end Fred Davis would provide three big targets in the offense.

While Kelly and Thomas have busted, Davis spent Sunday busting out with the best game of his career - six catches for 105 yards - and continued to put some struggles of youth behind him.

“I’m put in the situation to finally make plays, and I had to,” Davis said. “When you get the opportunity, that’s what it’s about.”

With Chris Cooley limited because of an injured left knee, Davis‘ role in the offense got bigger. In Sunday’s 28-14 victory over the New York Giants, Davis justified that extra faith from coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan by being the most effective weapon for quarterback Rex Grossman.

Splitting out wide at times, Davis created big-time matchup problems for an already banged-up Giants defense and provided a significant deep threat from a position not known for that kind of production.

Fred stretches the field vertically as well as any tight end in the league,” Grossman said.

That’s by design. The Redskins lined up in a lot of two-tight end sets and relied on Cooley for blocking skills, while Davis went down the field. The young tight end said he lost 12 pounds in the offseason for the purpose of being able to spread out the offense.

“I wanted to be able to run all day and be able to make plays down the seam,” he said. “I see a lot of tight ends make plays down the seam, and in this offense you can do a lot from the tight end position. I just wanted to benefit from it.”

Going places tight ends usually don’t venture too often, Davis took a few hits but most importantly held onto the ball and minimized the mistakes.

A career-best in yards only served as further evidence that a shaky rookie season and an oversleeping incident from minicamp in 2008 is ancient history for Davis.

“I’m really proud of Fred how he’s handled himself,” Mike Shanahan said. “He made some big-time plays today.”

Cooley made a couple of catches and moved into first place in franchise history with receptions by a tight end (422), but more games like this from Davis could put him on the path to challenging that record down the line.

As for 2011, having Davis and Cooley - if healthy - both in the lineup can make this offense dangerous.

“To have, in my opinion, two of the best route-running, pass-catching, all-around good tight ends with Cooley and Fred, you’ll see us in a lot of two-tight end situations for the rest of the year,” Grossman said.

For Davis, that just gives him more chances to make plays. More than anytime else in his career, he looks poised to seize that opportunity.

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