Thoughts on Austin Davis vs Nevada

This was largely described as a disappointing performance by the media, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. The game was littered with offensive line penalties putting Davies in not-ideal 3rd and long situations. There were some key drops and a perfect pass at the end of the first quarter would’ve gone for a touchdown but for a blatant hold on the receiver that wasn’t called. On a go-route downfield, Davis throws nicely into the back of the end zone but his receiver – seemingly not expecting the ball – hesitates for some reason and checks back, losing a step and then missing what would’ve been a pretty simple touchdown catch. Southern Miss generally looked a bit off which isn’t surprising given the ‘job done’ element of their win over Houston and the fact their coach Larry Fedora has since accepted the vacant position at North Carolina. For what it’s worth, I think that’s a great appointment by UNC.

At the same time, this wasn’t the usual polished Austin Davis performance. One play sticks in the mind – it was a pretty simple post route where he just threw high. I think he expected the receiver to run deeper before making his cut, but Davis didn’t adjust well enough and threw the ball away from his target. That was an adjustment I’ve seen him make in the past time and time again, but the fact he missed generally summed up his performance on the whole – there was a slight lack of sharpness. It contradicted one of the things I like about Davis – his ability to improvise. It’s a skill often lost among QB grades yet for me is so crucial at the next level. In the NFL a defense will keep giving you different looks, you’ll think a play call is adequate and then the unexpected happens and you have to react. Being able to get out of that situation and make a first down is paramount to a quarterbacks success – it flashes poise, field vision and good decision making.

Being able to make those decisions in unfavorable situations is even more important. On 1st and 10 inside his own ten-yard line, Davis takes a shotgun snap and fakes the hand-off. He’s looking down the middle of the field for a crossing route that isn’t on, so he pumps and then looks to his right for a completion and a first down. It’s a decisive read and execution in the face of adversity despite having pressure in his face. That’s what I’ve come to expect from Davis in the last two years.

On the same drive he shows off his under-rated mobility. Penalties against the offensive line force Southern Miss into 3rd and 18, but Davis almost makes the first down with his legs after sensing an opening to his left hand side and scrambling into space. He is capable of catching a defense off guard to break off runs, but his athleticism will also enable him to extend plays – a more crucial aspect looking ahead to the NFL.

He’s worked very hard to improve his arm strength and last off-season added some upper body muscle to generate greater velocity. It’s clear he’s not going to be a big-time downfield passer with an arm for the ages. On intermediate throws there’s a level of inconsistency. In this game there were two shorter range passes where the ball floated and took too long to get to the target. Both were completed, but in the NFL that pass has to have more zip or it’s getting broken up as a best case scenario. At other times, he’s capable of fitting passes into tight windows with just enough juice. The velocity on his quick slant and outside slant is good enough. That gives me some encouragement that there’s room for further work. A lot of quarterbacks – Tom Brady included – have vastly improved their arm strength in the pro’s. Davis has the frame to add further weight and continue improving, but right now it’ll work against him in terms of draft stock.

I’ve always liked Austin Davis in the red zone – he’s very productive and doesn’t make many mistakes. If the pass isn’t on, he throws it away. He’s very good on the back shoulder and traditional fade to the back of the end zone. In a short field with a lot happening in front, Davis excels. His first touchdown in this game was a throw put into an area where only his receiver can catch it right behind the defensive backs’ helmet. It’s a catchable ball, it’s well executed and Davis deserves credit for keeping his composure right at the end of the first half with a lot of penalties going on in an unusually elongated drive with a short field.

With the game drifting into a defensive battle at 17-17, he makes two big plays to set up the game winning score. The first is a well driven outside slant forcing the ball into the receivers hands and allowing him to break off a big gain. The second is textbook, three step drop with three defenders in his face. Davis steps up into the pocket and with a crowded midfield somehow locates an open receiver for a smart completion. Good composure and field vision, nice accuracy too. It sets up a touchdown pass in the red zone where Davis makes one read to his right, rejects it, then has to move away from pressure on his blind side before fitting a pass into another tight window for the score. He does well to extend the play, find a receiver and also act quickly against the pressure.

See Davis’ game winning touchdown pass by clicking here

At no point in the game did he come close to a turnover. There were no close calls and Davis made enough plays to win against a tough, well prepared Nevada defense. We shouldn’t mistake Davis for a player who is going to make a late surge into first round contention. However, he certainly warrants more credit than he’s currently receiving on a national scale. There’s something to work with – he’s a technical player with mobility and room for further development. I’ve said it many times on this blog that if the Seahawks are looking for quarterbacks beyond round one then Davis is one to keep a firm eye on.


  1. bballpapa

    Excellent report – it seemed the swirling wind in that stadium also played a big factor. But I agree, if Luck or RG3 just aren’t in the cards for the Seahawks – Davis would be an excellent get in the later rounds.

  2. Matt

    Where do you grade Davis now? Is he closer to a 2nd rd or 6th?

  3. Rob

    I think he’s a solid R3-4 type prospect who has starter potential with further work. I’m not convinced the Seahawks can rely on taking guys later and hoping one works out because the need exists today not in the future. However, they also can’t magic a QB out of thin air so if trading up isn’t possible or is too expensive, they’ll have little alternative.

  4. Don

    Thank You Rob, great report. What if the Colts and Rams are asking too much for their picks and Luck and RG3 are not available. It is round 2 and the seahawks have to make a choice. What do you do? Do you take Tannehill or Davis, which is the better prospect?


  5. Rob

    Well Tannehill has the higher ceiling purely down to his tools, but for me Davis is so much closer with everything else to becoming a pro-QB. Really I wouldn’t want to put the future of the franchise in the hands of either any time soon. Davis could be scary good if he’s drafted by a team with an ageing and accomplished QB and afforded several years to grow. I’m sure Seattle will keep accumulating QB’s like they have with Portis, searching for ‘the one’, but it’s going to be very difficult to find that guy and compile wins if every year you’re relying on the next Tarvaris Jackson to get you through. Seattle’s crying out for that top end QB. Be very prepared for another year of Jackson while the wait this thing out, I do not see that QB arriving in 2012. But considering they are going to draft a QB at some stage, I’d rather have Davis in the range he will be available than Tannehill in the range he’ll be available.

  6. Don

    Thanks for the response Rob. Barkley really threw a wrench into the Seahawks plans. I don’t think I can stand another year of 8-8, waiting for yet another franchise QB to fall into our laps. A year from now the Hawks will be in the same position, trying to out bid everyone to move up and get the #1 pick Barkley. I would like to throw as many picks as needed to get this year’s #1 pick Luck or RG3.

    If that doesn’t work, then decide if Davis or Tannehill can eventually become a franchise QB. Then make sure to get the guy, even if it is in the first round. I would like to see either of those two QB next year getting experience. If Dalton can do it, then one of these guys can be just as successful to.

  7. MattH

    Speaking of Dalton, I was wondering how these two compare. Seems like both have the ability to extend plays (surprisingly) and need some time to develop into actual pro quarter backs. How do the other elements of their games compare?

  8. Doug

    One of our problems for future years is that the TEAM is going to only improve at every position as our youth continues to grow up and get better, along with the FA’s and next yeats draft picks. Our picks will only get deeper into the draft, probably drafting in the 20’s from now on. We will be like Baltimore in a sense, a great team with a crap QB.
    So, we do need to strike NOW if possible on a big trade this year, or we have to grab a guy like Davis or Tannihill, maybe Landry and start hoping that one of the kids can play within a year or two. PCJS have assembled a good young team, and getting a young QB to grow up with the rest of the team could put us in good shape within a few years of, capable of being “in the hunt” every year.

    Mark Sanchez, Clausen, and the like are proving to be what is a good example of drafting the wrong QB, and pinning your future on their shoulders. Pete doesn’t want to make that mistake, and I’m glad he is going his way about it. Being a good NFL QB is such a difficult task. The blend of physical skills, mental understanding, and the right situation to land in is hard to come by. Fortunately, Pete has assembled a great landing spot for a young QB to land in.

  9. ivotuk

    Thanks for your work Rob, much appreciated. I like the sounds of Davis and think he or Tannehill would make a great consolation prize. It looks like we are going defense in the first round which is a good thing if we can get someone to pressure the QB. Besides a top-flight QB, that is the other big thing we need. QB pressure alone would have won us 2 or 3 more games this year.

  10. Michael (CLT)

    Passing on Dalton, Keapernick, and Mallet may very well be the undoing of the PC/JS regime.

  11. Jarhead

    Here is the thing to remember: big time QB’s are often for sale and it’s just not a huge neon sign indicating so. Look at how the Bears got Jay Cutler. With Cutler healthy they are perennial contenders. If you find a team with a pretty good QB and the two sides are not meshing, you’ve got a chance. And who is to say that Keapernick is not also available via trade? I mean it’s a long shot, but anything is possible. This team is very much like the Baltimore Ravens, although our strength is not D Line it’s the secondary, and they manage to get double digit wins every year. If we bolster the D Line in FA this year, we may just have a defense that is so rock solid that it will account for 7-8 wins on it’s own by keeping teams under 14 points. Good defense will help our road woes, and shore up TOP. I really don’t think the 1st and 2nd round is the best place for us to improve our defense, merely for a significant lack of talent, but there are several gold FA’s we should be wooing

  12. JC

    I wish people would get over the last draft. If memory serves me right this was what Seattle’s Oline looked like on Draft Day 2011:

    LT Russell Okung
    LG Mike Gibson
    C Max Unger
    RG empty
    RT Stacy Andrews

    Ben Hamilton had retired, Tyler Polumbus was a RFA, Chester Pitts, Ray Willis, Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer were all URFAs and replaceable parts at that. Speaking of free agents there wasn’t a signed period to fill out rosters prior to the draft.

    It would have been criminal to parachute a rookie QB behind that group of clowns and pray he didn’t get his head taken off his shoulders….just ask Blane Gabbert how that plan works out in the end.

  13. Michael (CLT)

    I’ve formally gotten off the “set the lines up first” train. How many different offensive line combinations did we use in 2009? 2010? 2011? Many. If you need to gel an offensive line, sit the QBOTF for a year. Or buy a bunch of offensive linemen and extend Tarvaris.

  14. Dean

    I like Austin Davis a lot. I’d love to get RG3 or Luck, sure, but I am not into the whole morgatge draft picks. I’d prefer to keep more picks and maybe trade down (maybe get a second rounder and 4th/5th) and grab Davis for the sake of continued depth. Im sure if e get 8 or 9 picks PCJS would be able to at least gt one or two decent plugs and a couple reserve depth guys out of it. And that makes more sense to me, and if Davis for example doesnt work out, well 2013 at least we have a better overall team, and still have the ability to do the same type of trade for a Barkley/Keith Price next year.

  15. shams

    Still no tape on this guy??

  16. Rob

    If you search the archives (see the title bar) you’ll find the tape from his game against Houston and a write up.

  17. Joe

    I’m a *huge* Southern Miss fan and have been for nearly my entire life. Austin Davis is one of those special QBs who only comes along once in a while and ends up turning a program around. He’s a solid, gritty runner who takes defenders head-on, a lot like a certain Bronco who shall remain nameless, but he’s also a smart passer who uses his reads well and can deliver a tight spiral on target. Whether he can do these same things in the NFL remains to be seen, but his biggest attribute is his intelligence, so I think he’ll claw his way up some team’s depth chart.
    What it boils down to is this: The man broke every single one of Brett Favre’s records (remember him?) and did it in less time. He missed nearly his entire sophomore year due to injury, only playing in five games. How do you not give that guy at least a look?
    Remember, Tom Brady was a backup QB at Michigan and a backup to Drew Bledsoe, and we all know how that story ended. Is Austin Davis the next Tom Brady? Probably not. But you never know, he could etch out a pretty good career for himself and we might be talking about the next Austin Davis in fifteen years.

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