(AP) — It didn't seem to make much sense when the Washington Redskins selected Fred Davis in the second round in 2008, given that the team already had reliable Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley.
Sure, there were promises about getting both on the field at the same time as often as possible, with the pair evolving into an unstoppable tandem. Davis waited three years to see if that plan would ever work, two under coach Jim Zorn and one under coach Mike Shanahan. His only productive stretch came in 2009, but that was when Cooley missed much of the season because of an injury — not because they were both catching passes every week.
Otherwise, the powerful Southern California product with good size and speed was essentially an underused backup.
"I was kind of confused a little bit when I was drafted here," Davis said. "I don't think under Zorn's offense it was really a two tight end set. This offense was, but we needed another year in this offense to grow and for the receivers and running backs to grow and I think for the linemen to grow, too. That's where we are now, but we still have to keep growing and still have to get better."
So perhaps the time has finally come. Now that everyone is more familiar with Shanahan's play book, the coaches are bullish on having Davis and Cooley wreak havoc together on the field. The Week 1 win over the New York Giants offered a possible glimpse of things to come: Davis had a career-high 105 yards on five catches, while Cooley snagged two passes for 21 yards despite missing the entire preseason with a knee that was swollen and sore from offseason surgery.
"What a couple of tight ends enables you to do is to present different packages to the defense," Shanahan said. "They're not sure if we're in a three wide receiver set, four wide receiver set, two tight ends, three tight ends. The more you can do, the more you can keep defenses off balance."
Cooley, who passed Jerry Smith as the Redskins' all-time leader in catches by a tight end, said he defied team doctors who didn't think he would play until the third or fourth game. One would expect Davis' time to dwindle as Cooley gets more comfortable on the knee, but that's not how Cooley would have it.
"I've heard so much talk about 'Who's the tight end in this offense?'" Cooley said. "And 'one of these guys is going to star.' To have guys that can make plays on offense is what makes you a good offense, so for both of us to be in the game — which we both talk about a lot — is going to be huge for this offense because both of us help each other so much. I think it creates a lot of mismatches for defenses."
While there's never been any doubt about Cooley's work ethic, Davis has been slower to grasp the commitment needed to be a top-notch pro. This year, he came to training camp 15 pounds lighter and is taking film study more seriously. His favorite all-time tight end is Tony Gonzalez. He's analyzed Houston's Owen Daniels, who plays in the same system the Redskins run. Rivalry pride keeps him from talking up the Dallas' Jason Witten, the only tight end who had a bigger Week 1 than Davis.
"I can't say that he's a good tight end, though," Davis said with a smile.
Davis says the extra study helps him see the field better and anticipate what will happen next. He said he realized he needed to buckle down as he watched the two other Redskins second-round picks from 2008 — Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly — fall by the wayside.
"I think it opened my eyes when Devin got cut," Davis said. "It opened my eyes when I first got here — you have got different teammates every year. And definitely, coach Shanahan, he doesn't care if you're first round, second round, whatever — if you're not playing and not performing, you're not going to be here."
Davis couldn't ask for more engaging teammate than Cooley, who came up with the idea of having the tight ends wear tights to practice on Wednesday. Cooley, Davis and third-stringer Logan Paulsen all sported the burgundy "tight end tights."
"The intent is really to spread among the whole offense," Cooley said. "A lot of guys were attracted to the look we had today. A lot of guys thought we looked sleek, faster."
Besides, said Davis: "Peter Pan wore tights."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP