Reggie Davis streaked down the middle of the field, getting ready to catch a pass from Matt Schaub.
The 6-foot speedy wideout reached above his head and his fingertips began to grasp the ball. He held on and trotted to the end zone.
It was one of many impressive plays during a July 28 practice for Davis, who was still practicing in the red-and-black, but at a whole new level with the Atlanta Falcons. There’s no room for error with the former Bulldog, who is trying to crack the 53-man roster after final cuts are made on Sept. 1.
“In college, they tell you not to make too many mistakes,” Davis said. “Here, it’s like you make one mistake and can never make it again. You never want to lack on effort and my main thing is that I want to practice full speed, make plays and always put my speed on film.”
Two days into Falcons training camp, Davis minimized those mistakes and began getting noticed by coaches and fellow teammates. In addition to the deep catch, he also caught some quick slants from Schaub and saw action with the punt return team.
Atlanta currently carries 14 active wide receivers on its training camp roster – six of which were on an active roster at some point in 2016. Usually a team may carry five wideouts on the 53-man roster and Davis provides versatility, which could give an advantage to claim a final spot.
The Falcons lost Eric Weems, their starting return specialist, after last season and Taylor Gabriel could be a favorite to fill that role due to his speed. But Davis has an argument of his own, running a 40-yard dash between 4.25 and 4.31 seconds – according to scouts – at Georgia’s pro day in March.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was in attendance for the showcase and saw that display first-hand. Davis’ speed has shown itself again after receiving a 90-man roster spot, and that asset has landed him reps with the second-team offense.
“His opportunity is now here. He can really go,” Quinn said. “He had a nice catch today on a deep ball. When guys prove that they can handle it and have a bigger role, we give them more reps. He is off to a good start and doing some good things. We have a long way to go and part of his game is finding that versatility and the different things he can do, but he has our attention.”
Davis signed with the Falcons on May 14 after a minicamp tryout and said it was significant to hear those words from Quinn. While on the roster, Davis will try to take advice from everybody and compile it into his “own little skill box.”
One of those guys is Gabriel, who had a turbulent path trying to land a sure-fire roster spot. Like Davis, Gabriel is a fourth-year player after being an undrafted free agent and cut by Cleveland after two seasons. Eventually, he was signed by Atlanta and emerged as a starting slot receiver.
The similar skill set and off-field experiences make Davis sure to listen to his elder teammate’s words.
“We’re both fast guys, so he’s just telling me to work on releasing,” Davis said. “He tells me little details on how to attack them outside and just little stuff to help me get better with my game.”
Davis said he needs to cut down on being “antsy.” His eagerness to run can get the best of him, but he said patience may allow him to get open more often.
Davis may find some help with that issue when he learned he would be reunited with Quincy Mauger, his college teammate and close friend.
Mauger, after being a role player in Georgia’s defensive backfield in 2016, was one of 21 signed players on May 1 by the Falcons after being observed at two pro days. Davis and Mauger began to build their bond during their sophomore year in Athens and are now dependent upon one another.
“It made me relax a little bit because he’s somebody that I know and can talk to,” Davis said. “He will talk outside of football. It just allows me to keep a clear mind and have a friend close by.”
Added Mauger: “It’s fun. Having someone you know, especially that close, that rocked the ‘G’ with you in college, it’s nice having that around.”
Along with Davis, Mauger has received words from some of the most successful assets in Atlanta’s secondary – Ricardo Allen, Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal. Entering the camp along with 17 other defensive backs, looks to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL while also having some fun.
Quinn credited Mauger for his intelligence, ability to communicate and athleticism. The Falcons will continue to put him – along with other players – in high-stress situations as the preseason progresses.
“I look at everyday as a challenge – whether I were drafted or undrafted,” Mauger said. “I know I have to prove people right and prove people wrong; going out there and earning any respect out there. The Falcons took a chance with me, and I’m ready to work.”