ASHBURN, Va. -- 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."
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?'aa" 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."