The NFL might have only two defensive linemen capable of running down kicks. And they’re both Pittsburgh Steelers. Henry Mondeaux logged serious playing time there last season and did well in that role. Now, Carlos Davis is trying to do the same. Davis has been used on the kick coverage and punt return team units this season, hoping to become the next 300-something-pound guy to do more than contribute to his side of the ball.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday, special teams coordinator Danny Smith talked about Davis’s role and potential impact there.
“That guy can run,” Smith said via team transcript and courtesy of Steelers.com. “It differs. It’s all about matchups. We have some big guys that can run. Coach always says, “Big men run and little men hit.” That’s become a creed here that’s developed and that’s who we are. We get those kinds of guys, and it’s situational.”
Davis is an impressive athlete at over 300 pounds with a quick first step and ability to run in open field. Built like Javon Hargrave with similar athleticism, Davis, like Mondeaux, is trying to increase his value beyond being a backup defensive lineman rotating in for just a handful of snaps per game. A way to truly maximize the 53-man roster and gameday 47. Every single spot is precious.
Smith is hoping Davis can do more than just run down kicks and block punts.
“Carlos [Davis] has not blocked this preseason. The next step is to make those plays.”
According to PFF, Davis logged 24 total snaps on special teams. He didn’t record a tackle but seemed to hold his own. His size, certainly, gives him a unique advantage for the poor backup linebacker or running back tryng to take him on.
“He’s a great penetrator. People are half-shouldering him. With today’s rules, there aren’t any chop-blocks or cut-blocks. It’s my job to put them in those situations in terms of where we penetrate from; where people are running the ball; what are the percentages of right returns, left returns, middle returns; matchups.”
Smith acknowledged the way Davis is going to win is by winning quickly. He won’t be the type of guy chasing the ball once it gets past him.
“He has to do the damage right now. He’s not going to chase after his returners and catch them. His damage must come immediately. We’ll move him around for matchups and he’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s a great player and a big man. I wouldn’t want to block him.”
With Davis and Mondeaux currently on the 53, there’s a chance both line up to cover kicks and punts, though it’s more likely the team just uses one guy. Smith said he’ll “decide” how those guys get used once the season begins. But it’s a subtle, unique advantage the Steelers have and clearly one they’re excited to use come Week 1.