RICHMOND — The longer Redskins rookie Robert Davis waited to be drafted, the more anxious he became. The wide receiver sat five-and-a-half hours on the last day of the NFL draft, unsure where, or if, he was going to be picked.
It didn’t help matters that those he was with — his girlfriend, parents and friends with him in his home state of Georgia — were feeling the same growing pressure.
“Just having my mom and dad there, they were kinda stressing out and it kinda added onto my stress,” Davis said.
Finally, the Redskins called his name in the sixth round, No. 206 overall. Davis said, as soon as he heard his name, it was “all well worth it.”
But in retrospect, draft day may have been the easy part. Davis now has to make the Redskins’ roster and there will be plenty of competition for the last wide receiver spots on the 53-man roster.
Last year, the Redskins carried six receivers into 2016. This season, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant are near locks for roster spots — meaning there will be just two slots available if the Redskins go with the same number again.
So far, the competition has been close. Davis will play in his first preseason game Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Really, I’m just trying to learn on the fly right now,” Davis said. “Just trying to get in as much as I can from the veterans. Guys like Terrelle Pryor, Brian Quick, Ryan Grant, guys who have been in the league. I’m just trying to get as much from them as I can and see if I can put that and implement that into my game.”
Davis is 6-foot-3 and had 968 yards and five touchdowns his senior year at Georgia State. Like Doctson and Pryor, he adds size to the Redskins’ receiving corps.
Davis has flashed potential already in camp. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy found success hitting Davis down the sideline for long yardasge. Davis has been able to take advantage of his size.
The receiver has studied Pryor and says he tries to emulate how the veteran uses his size to his advantage.
“It’s just using your body,” Davis said. “Being able to use your body and use your strength. And not try to be something that you’re not, you know what I’m saying? If you know that those smaller guys are going to be able to break down quicker than you, you’ve got to be able to use your body to get in good position. That’s something I’m really learning how to do from those guys.”
There’s more to Davis than his size and ability to catch passes. Redskins coach Jay Gruden pointed to Davis’ run blocking as an underrated asset that’s impressed him.
“Any time you want to be a physical, running football team, you have to have physical receivers to go in there and block safeties from time to time, sometimes even linebackers,” Gruden said. “Robert has proven he can do that. He’s not afraid, that’s for sure. He’s pancaked a couple guys already so that’s what caught my eye so far. … Mentally, it’s all got to start to slow down for him but he’s getting there. He’s a big, physical, talented kid that we like.”
Other wideouts fighting to make the roster are Quick, Maurice Harris, Matt Hazel and Zach Pascal. Each have had their moments in camp, trying to prove they belong.
Hazel and Harris spent time on the Redskins’ practice squad last season and came into camp already becoming familiar with the offense. Harris was actually promoted to the 53-man roster in October and had eight catches for 66 yards in 10 games.
Pascal, an undrafted rookie from Old Dominion, said he’s relying on his consistency to make the roster.
“I feel like my ability to get off the line, my routes have been real good lately,” Pascal said. “I’m just trying to consistently get open.”
The receivers and the rest of the Redskins roster will have a longer period to make an impression on the coaching staff. The NFL eliminated the 75-man cutdown date in the offseason, meaning teams will go from 90 to 53 in one day.
Gruden said he supports the change, adding he barely had enough healthy players to play in last year’s fourth preseason game.
The Redskins are already in the process of mapping out a final roster without having played a preseason game.
“We try to get people reps so they can show what they can do,” Gruden said. “So, in your mind, you start to formulate a plan – your first-stringers, your core, key backups. In the meantime, you still have to get the younger guys some reps to see if they can somehow crack into that lineup.”