Brief film room study today before it’s off to camp. The battle for the #3 running back spot has heated up. Fitzgerald Toussaint has held his own and looks steady as ever. Terrell Watson has been something of a camp sleeper who seems like a lock to make the practice squad. But Knile Davis has surprised me maybe the most. Not only is he well-rounded, can catch, block, return, what he’s showing as a runner is attractive.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago Davis was a big part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. In 2014, he carried the ball 134 times for six scores. While his average wasn’t, and never has been, impressive, there was some measure of talent. That faded in recent years but in Pittsburgh, he’s brought some of that juice back.
While he isn’t spectacular in any one area as a runner, and can never come close to being a feature back, he can offer a bit of everything. And one thing he is showing that Toussaint and Watson really haven’t is the ability to get more than what is blocked. Toussaint’s best run of the night came off a key lead block by David Johnson. Watson’s TD run came off key pulling blocks, too.
Davis had to create for his. Two examples from the New York Giants game. First run early in the third quarter. Bounces the run off left tackle but when the RDE sheds, Davis cuts back. Makes the end miss, gets upfield to run away from the backside defender, and winds up gaining five. Run that should’ve gone nowhere. Instead of 2nd and 10, it’s 2nd and 5. Critical difference.
Second example later on in the drive. Iso run up the middle. Davis even puts his head down like he’s going to run through the pile. But when RT Jerald Hawkins washes the LDE down, Davis pops up and bounces to the right. Doesn’t spin, gets square, eyes up, and turns inside Marcus Tucker’s solid stalk block. Gets away from the end’s diving tackle, turns upfield, and falls forward at the end. 11 yard gain, move the sticks.
Davis has shown those traits in camp too. That ability to create, break tackles, get more than what is simply blocked. His main contribution on the Steelers this year, if he makes the team, will be as a returner, but those traits carry over. He’s a tough, physical runner, and that’s part of the foundation in the kick return game. It’s why Demarcus Ayers doesn’t get work there and Toussaint does, even though Ayers is so much more dynamic. On kick returns, you look for more size and toughness. On punts, it’s about quickness.
Same story as a runner. What Davis has done is impressive and to me at least, eye-opening. And why I still put him ahead of Toussaint on the roster if a decision had to be made today.