By: Bob George/
August 14, 2004

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New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill

FOXBOROUGH -- If not for one nifty touchdown pass to Ricky Bryant, you'd think that Rohan Davey was the one out of position and not Troy Brown.

Davey, who is the toast of Europe but is fast becoming toast in Foxborough, made up for an otherwise lackluster and at times abysmal night with two touchdown passes in helping the Patriots defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-6 in the preseason opener for both teams Friday night at Gillette Stadium. He rocketed a 23-yard scoring strike to Bryant early in the fourth quarter, not long after tossing a water balloon to Mike Jennings from five yards out near the end of the third quarter. The scoring strike to Jennings was typical of the evening for Davey: lousy technique, poor footing, zero tight spirals, and a look of indecision and lack of confidence out there on the field.

Davey has been practically handed the number two quarterback job, with the departure of Damon Huard. Instead of making it his job to win, he is playing to not lose it. Davey took a few sacks which you would never see Tom Brady take, most noticeably a foolish red zone sack early in the second quarter. On third and three at the Eagle 17, Davey was besieged by Sam Rayburn and had plenty of time to roll outside the tackle box and throw the ball away. Instead, Davey allowed Rayburn to sack him at the 29 for a 12-yard loss. Fortunately, Adam Vinatieri loves kicking in bad weather (it rained most all game long), and the fabled Patriot kicker bailed Davey out with a 47-yard trey.

For the game, Davey finished 8 of 15 passing for 70 yards. These numbers do not suggest how ineffective he was for most all game long. With 6:21 to go in the third quarter until Kliff Kingsbury replaced him midway through the fourth quarter, Davey hit on 5 of 6 passes during this stretch. Other than the touchdown to Bryant, the only other pass Davey nailed with authority was a nifty 18-yard slant to Malaefou MacKenzie in the third quarter just prior to the scoring toss to Jennings. Most of Davey's tosses were wobbly and off the mark, but at least none of them were caught by an Eagle.

Thanks to his overall inability to find receivers, sometimes Davey had to run.

And did he run. Davey logged 40 rushing yards on four carries, a terrific 10-yard average. He showed good running skills, helped greatly by his powerful frame. But it was his rushing which more or less turned his evening around.

After the Eagles pulled to within 10-6 with a 15-play drive in the third quarter, Davey faced a second and 15 at the Patriot 45. Davey was flushed out of the pocket, scrambled up the middle, then broke off a left end run for 16 yards to the Eagle 39. This led to the Jennings touchdown, and it gave Davey the confidence he lacked up to this point.

Two plays before hitting Bryant for the final score of the evening, Davey broke off a 23-yard run with a dash up the middle. Once again, Davey looked more like a fullback than he did a quarterback, and ran with great authority. Davey's greatest strength, his powerful arm, paled in comparison to his ability to scramble up the middle (as opposed to lateral movement to avoid sacks).

Kingsbury played too little to make Davey worry, at least for now. The former Texas Tech Red Raider hit on all three of his passes, but the passes netted only five yards total. Brady only played two series and managed to throw a nine-yard scoring pass to David Patten in a 3-of-4, 31-yard performance. Friday night was Davey's moment to shine, but he failed to seize the moment like he should have.

Davey's Berlin Thunder squad won the NFLE championship, and he came out of the season with a seemingly new gloss. He was named the league's offensive player of the year, and led Berlin to a 30-24 win over Frankfurt in World Bowl XII. The anticipation for his seeing action in this preseason was very high.

In passing final judgment on Davey, one might think that he had more of a case of the jitters rather than not being up to the task. Just by looking at his scoring toss to Bryant shows everyone that Davey can shoot the ball in there with authority. It's just puzzling that Davey looked so shaky and unsure out there for the better part of the evening.

Davey probably became the biggest reason to pay close attention to this otherwise nondescript, but not totally unremarkable, preseason opener. Many of the mainstays of the Patriots were gone after the second series, though Eugene Wilson was spotted in the fourth quarter, Asante Samuel saw lots of game action, Patrick Pass had seven carries for 42 yards, all of them late in the game.

Other than Davey, much attention was perhaps focused on Corey Dillon, Vince Wilfork, and the chilling sight of Brown playing at cornerback as well as wideout.

Dillon was cheered every time he touched the ball. He played only briefly, tallying 23 yards on five carries. His final touch was a pretty 13-yard off tackle run which helped set up Brady's scoring toss to Patten. The run seemed to wind him, and Mike Cloud carried the bulk of the rushing load thereafter.

Keith Traylor is the prohibitive favorite to begin the season as starting nose tackle. Traylor did well in his brief time in the game early on, but Wilfork looked like he has some work to do. He was pushed and shoved aside most all game long, while Reno Mahe dashed by him for 52 yards in 10 carries. This may be nothing more than technique issues, but Traylor looked like Ted Washington's twin brother when he was in there.

Finally, there is the perplexing sight of Brown trying his hand at cornerback. He never was burned on any play, and did get a good stick in on Freddie Mitchell in the first quarter (assisted by Roman Phifer). One has to wonder if this may turn out to be a repeat of when Ted Johnson was hurt a few years ago in the preseason while playing on special teams. Brown, ever the team guy, is only too willing to help all he can to win. But if he wants to catch passes, punts and picks, when does this guy get a rest?

Things basically went well for the Patriots Friday night. If there is one thing Bill Belichick needs to look at during practice, it's the development of both Davey and Wilfork, with an emphasis on the former. Davey has to convince all of Patriot Nation that all will be well if Brady goes down with an injury.

Besides, fullback is insignificant in Charlie Weis' offense. It's QB or nothing, Rohan.