Packers’ Trevor Davis relies on late push in quest for roster spot
GREEN BAY — Trevor Davis doesn’t want to rely on past history to earn a spot on the Green Bay Packers’ roster, but that just might be what allows the third-year wide receiver and return man to stick around after an abbreviated training camp thanks to a hamstring injury.
“I can’t try and base everything off past preseasons and seasons,” Davis said Monday after practicing for the first time since Aug. 2. “Every year you have to come into it and battle for a position — especially here where we have great receivers. It’s going to be tough.”
The Packers’ wide receiver picture is in flux after the top three of Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. UW-Whitewater alum Jake Kumerow was having the best training camp of any other receiver, but a shoulder injury suffered Aug. 16 against Pittsburgh has halted his momentum for a roster spot. Kumerow didn’t practice Monday and might not be cleared in time for Thursday night’s preseason finale at Kansas City.
The three draft picks at receiver — fourth-rounder J’Mon Moore, fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown — have each had their good moments during camp but have also been wildly inconsistent in their play. But their draft status and potential have to factor into whether the Packers keep them on the 53-man roster coming out of camp or try to get one or two of them through waivers and onto the practice squad.
And then there’s Davis, the 25-year-old 2016 fifth-round pick from the University of California who missed the Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field on Aug. 4 and has yet to play in a preseason game.
“It is (frustrating). But that’s something I couldn’t control. At the end of the day, I just had to rehab and get better and fast,” Davis said. “I do want to be out there. It’s big for me to go out there and put my best foot forward to make the team. But I have to listen to (the medical staff).”
Davis finished last season ranked third in the NFL in punt return average (12.0 yards per return) — a stat bolstered by his 65-yard return in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 10 to set up the game-tying touchdown. The Packers then won in overtime. Davis’ production allowed the Packers to finish second in the 32-team league in team punt return average (10.7), the highest they’ve ranked since the 1996 Desmond Howard-led punt return unit was tops in the NFL en route to the Super Bowl XXXI title.
Davis also was one of the Packers’ top punt gunners, and the coverage unit probably needs him after Jeff Janis left in free agency.
“There’s been a history there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “If I was to talk about Trevor’s place on our team, I think his No. 1 priority would be based off what he’s done in the past on special teams. He’s been an excellent returner, particularly really coming on last year, and let’s not forget he was probably our best gunner, our most productive gunner, last year.
“This is a big week for him. He knows that. (We) just want to get him through (the week), then hopefully practice (him) again on Wednesday and get him out there against Kansas City.”
Added general manager Brian Gutekunst: “It’s been unfortunate for Trevor that he’s had to battle through that (injury). We’re hoping to get him out there Thursday night and see where he’s at, but we have history there. He’s proven some things in this league, so we have history there and can kind of evaluate that part of it.
“But he’s still a young player. He’s not anywhere near, he’s still kind of on an upward trend from an age perspective and where he’s at in his career. So you have to weigh it all.”
While special teams coordinator Ron Zook loves Davis’ contributions on his units (“I can’t wait to get him out there and get him back going”) and his speed (“It’s just hard to coach 4.3”), Davis has been largely a non-factor on offense, entering this season with just eight career regular-season receptions. He has played less than 10 percent of the offense’s snaps during his first two years in the league — just 103 snaps on offense last season and 117 snaps as a rookie.
“In this league, that’s kind of what you need when you’re not a top three receiver,” Davis said. “They’re not just going to let you sit on the sideline and hope maybe one play you’ll go in there. You have to help the team, and I learned that at a young age here. So that definitely, I know, boosts things because I have proven myself on special teams, and I can help the team on special teams.”
Whether his special-teams work is enough to earn him a roster spot on a team that is devoid of proven depth at receiver remains to be seen, and Davis understands that he has to show more on offense — starting Thursday night against the Chiefs — to bolster his chances.
“I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work. It’s a new year, new receivers, three draft picks. There’s a lot of competition in this room,” Davis said. “If worst comes to worst and something happens for me to not make this team, I know it’s their decision and it’s not mine. That’s what they think is best for the team, and that’s really all that I want is what’s best for the team. If that happens, then I understand.”