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For Injured Titans WR Corey Davis, the Mind Still Matters

Posted Oct 13, 2017

The fifth overall pick of the draft hasn't played since Week 2. But the Titans are using every means possible to make sure he stays locked in.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In the midst of a recent Titans practice, wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson wheeled toward wide receiver Corey Davis and hit him with a string of questions:

“What do you (do) on the back of a curl route? What adjustments do you make on an out route if (the defense) is playing Cover-2 or press? What's your split on that route?”

The quick pop quiz is just one example of the extensive efforts the Titans are taking to make sure the fifth overall pick in the draft – who's been sidelined since Week 2 with a hamstring injury – stays connected to the team and the weekly game-plan.

Davis won't be playing Monday night against Indianapolis, but he could return as soon as the following Sunday against Cleveland.

Whenever Davis does next suit up, the Titans want to make sure he's the same star-in-the-making kind of player that hauled in six catches for 69 yards in his NFL debut. The best way to do that – given Davis' physical limitations – is to keep his football mind as finely tuned as possible.

“As long as he's staying into it from a mental aspect of it – staying focused, staying around the building and staying around the guys – then he's not going to get lost and go astray,” Titans wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson said. “That's the big thing for him and he's been doing a really, really good job of that.”

“He's the guy we call on”

Just what are the Titans doing to make sure Davis maintains that mental focus?

Here are a couple of examples:

• Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie likens Davis to a little rubber ball during the team's offensive meetings, explaining that he bounces more things off Davis than any other player in the room.

“(Davis) is the guy where we're throwing something on the wall and saying, `Corey, what is everyone doing?'” Robiskie said. “It's not just, `Corey, what are you doing? What's your job?' It may be that we're installing something in the running game, but we'll still turn around and say, `Corey, what have you got in this?' Or, `Corey, what's that guy got to do here?' He's the guy we call on and the guy we question.”

Robiskie said Davis usually sits at a desk one seat behind and to the right of quarterback Matt Cassel during meetings, watching how Cassel takes notes and soaks in the game-plan. That knowledge comes in especially handy whenever Robiskie surprises him with even more questions.

“The head coach might say something at a team meeting or maybe the running backs coach installs something,” Robiskie said. “So I might go back to (Davis) 10 minutes later and say, `Hey, I wasn't paying attention. What did the coach say on this?' I know (the answer), but it's just a way of getting to (Davis). Did he make sure to write things down?”

• Jackson, who's in his first year as the team's wide receivers coach, hands Davis a practice script each day before the Titans take the field. That allows Davis to take so-called “mental reps,” familiarizing himself with his role even if he can't fully participate.

“He's going through the plays mentally, so then I'll go back to him and ask, `Hey, what do you have on this play? What's this play? What do you have to do here?'” Jackson said. “So I'm constantly quizzing and grilling him. That way when he gets back out here, mentally he's ready to go. He hasn't lost any ground.”

Jackson often follows up with a post-practice quiz while Davis works on his catching at the JUGS machine.

“When he's doing extra work and making sure his hands are fine-tuned, I'm grilling him then,” Jackson said. “I'm asking him questions from the script again, this time while he's doing something else. I want to see where his mind is.”

• Even the veteran receivers get in on the fun with Davis, as teammates like Eric Weems and Harry Douglas aren't about to let the talented Titans' rookie slide just because he's not active.

“We do a great job in our meeting room,” Weems said. “Even though he's not playing, we're quizzing him – `Hey, what you got here when this happens?' He's been doing pretty good with those answers. I'm ready to see what he can do (on the field).”

“Faith Is Everything”

Davis acknowledges it's been difficult sitting out due to the hamstring, which also sidelined him for the entire preseason.

To his credit, however, the 6-3, 209-pound Chicago native understands the importance of taking a detailed mental approach to the game, which is something that's not always easy for a rookie.

“Being out is not an excuse for me not to know things,” Davis said. “I still have to keep my head in things, so when I do come back in there, I can hit the ground running. For me, preparation breeds confidence. The more you're prepared, the better you feel going out there.”

Davis credits his religious faith in helping him stay patient and positive through injuries – the hamstring strains as well as the ankle sprain that slowed him during the past offseason.

“Ever since I've been a little kid, faith is everything,” Davis said. “Faith is everything. So I just trust God's plan, keep my head down, keep working and control what I can control.”

Titans coach Mike Mularkey said that kind of single-mindedness and focus were evident when the team scouted Davis at Western Michigan last year.

“That had a lot to do with (drafting him),” Mularkey said. “We knew he was the kind of guy that did the extra things – things nobody asked him to do, told him to do, wanted him to do or scheduled him to do. He did a lot of things on his own to become the player he is.”

The Titans' hope – and belief – now is that Davis is following the same path when it comes to keeping his mind in game-day condition.

“We have conversations every single day and he's been really, really good from a mental standpoint,” Jackson said. “He's stayed in tune. He's stayed involved. He's been around just like he's been playing.”

— Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.