Austin Davis looked very good Sunday against the Buccaneers.
The guy was making his first start, in terrible weather, with pressure to win and labeled as a major underdog. Somehow though, he managed to stay calm and play smart and poised. Let's make no mistake about it, Davis did not spend the whole day, dinking and dunking the ball to check down targets. As I expected - considering his full grasp of the playbook after three seasons - Brian Schottenheimer opened the playbook up, and let him play. No question about it, Davis responded well...
Davis was sharp, and he went through the reads with regularity. He stood tall in the pocket, and never once did he flinch in the face of pressure. He made some legit NFL throws, and showed better arm strength than he was given credit for. He does not have a rifle for an arm, but he has enough juice to squeeze the ball in the tight windows and make the down field throws as well.
There were a lot of great throws by Davis in this game, but three in particular really stood out to me.
The first being on second and 13 with six minutes left in the second quarter. He took his time to go through his first and second read - with heavy pressure looming in his face - and found Tavon Austin 15 yards down field. Austin was covered very well, but he was the best option. The throw showed great accuracy and velocity - as he threaded the needle between two defenders and hit Austin squarely in the numbers - for what should have been a catch for a first down, but Austin let the pass into his chest and dropped it. This was also the play that Austin was hurt on.
The next throw was a beautiful 45 yard bomb late in the fourth quarter to Brian Quick. On this throw, he showed great pocket awareness, arm strength, and down field accuracy. Again the receiver was pretty well covered, but Davis got the ball in position where only his receiver could make a play on it. The ball was dropped as it ultimately went through Quick's hands and hit him in the face.
The final throw that impressed me was the most impressive throw of the afternoon. On third and nine with the game on the line, and heavy pressure on a beeline to drill him; Davis stood tall and delivered a 27 yard strike to Austin Pettis going down the seam. Again the coverage was very good, but the ball placement was right where it needed to be - also a great catch by Pettis - to get the first down and move into field goal range.
Overall, Davis finished the day 22 of 29 for 235 yards and averaged 10.68 yards per completion. If not for three drops (the two aforementioned by Quick (45 yards), Austin (15 yards), and a third quarter 11 yard drop by Pettis), this could have easily been a 300-yard passing day for Davis. All afternoon, we saw a young man that remained poised and played with emotion while getting his teammates to buy into him.
After the game, Jeff Fisher confirmed that Shaun Hill will remain the starter once he is healthy. My hope is that the team holds Shaun Hill out through the week four bye.
This will allow Davis to get a second start this week vs the Cowboys. If Davis can play well again, it may begin to change Fisher's mind as to who "gives the team the best chance to win". Davis knows the playbook the best, but one key fact that seems be getting overlooked is his chemistry with the receivers. Davis spent the first two seasons with the Rams as a backup quarterback. During this time, players like Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey, and Lance Kendricks (co-starter) were the players he spent the most time throwing to in practice. Now in year three, Brian Quick is a starter and by all accounts the top target. Stedman Bailey - possibly returning this week - is set to play a major role moving forward (possibly 30-35 plays a game). Kendricks is already a co-starter and will continue in that role.
By already having undeniable chemistry with these players, and his understanding of the playbook, an argument can be made that Davis gives the team its best chance to win.
Let's make no mistake about it, this was only one game. He is still a very inexperienced player who will likely hit his fair share of bumps in the road. But just taking his first half and comparing it to Shaun Hill's first half, there is no doubt about it that he outperformed Hill.
Is he the savior the Rams are looking for? I don't think so.
But he has more than enough potential to develop into a solid stop gap quarterback - and due to his poise and command of the huddle, maybe down the road become one of the better backups in the NFL - and he can win some games. To accomplish any of this he has to be allowed an opportunity to continue to grow.
Let the young man play....