Davis suffers slump

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004

HOUSTON Domanick Davis proudly boasted in the preseason of his goal to join the NFL's ultra-exclusive club of 2,000 yards rushers.

He'd better pick up the pace.

Davis would need to average 177 yards over the next 10 games, a rate that even he acknowledges is all but an impossiblity.

''I'm still going to try my best to get it,'' Davis said. ''I'm not going to change anything, not my goals or anything. Maybe it's impossible to do it, but there's nothing going to stop me from trying.''

Davis' first goal should be simply turning around a season that appears to be mired in a sophomore slump. As the Houston Texans' first 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie, he's run for just 233 in six games this season and has a tenuous hold on his job.

Costly fumbles, nagging injuries and the emergence of former fourth-string tailback Jonathan Wells have kept Davis on the bench a lot more than he might have expected.

Davis is getting treated for a bruised left thigh during this week's bye, an injury that kept him out of the second half against Tennessee last Sunday. That injury came a week after he returned from a sprained right ankle that kept him out of the previous two games.

''What Domanick is using this week for is to get healthy and get his legs back under him,'' Texans coach Dom Capers said. ''Domanick has just had some nagging injuries that you always get in this game. We fully expect him to come back strong and be his old self.''

A fourth-round draft pick out of LSU in 2003, Davis has been on the injury list almost as often as on the field since coming to Houston.

He missed much of his first training camp after breaking his right hand. He missed two games last season with groin and thigh injuries and was slowed by chest and hip ailments in two other games. As a result, the 5-foot-9, 221-pounder is hearing many of the same concerns about his size and durability that he heard coming out of college.

''It's frustrating, but that's just part of the game,'' Davis said. ''If people aren't happy with it, it's their problem. The team hasn't lost any confidence in me.''

No, but it might not be long before the Texans lose patience. Davis wasn't playing all that well even before he got hurt.

Davis is averaging 2.9 yards a carry, and his longest run has been only 10 yards. He's also got fewer touchdowns (three) than fumbles (four), the same number of turnovers he had his entire rookie season. Even while Davis has struggled, Houston's offense has thrived.

The Texans have the NFL's 10th-ranked unit behind the emerging pass-catch combo of David Carr and Andre Johnson. Wells has provided a powerful running presence since Davis and backup Tony Hollings have missed time with injuries.

''There's no question Jonathan has improved his position,'' Capers said. ''He started out this training camp as the No. 3 back and he has come on very strong. Any time we've called on him, he has come in and performed very well.''

Davis insists he isn't worried about his role as a starter.

''I know what I can do when I'm healthy,'' Davis said. ''I know I can still do the job.''

Originally pegged as a kick returner and third-down back when drafted, Davis quickly proved he can be one of the league's better runners when healthy. His shiftiness, vision and subtle power allowed him to run for 1,031 yards and eight TDs in 10 starts as a rookie. He ran for more yards than all of the seven running backs drafted ahead of him not bad for a guy who hadn't opened a season as a starter since his senior year of high school in Breaux Bridge, La.

That's why no one thought it too absurd when he told reporters in January he believed he could join O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and Jamal Lewis as the league's only 2,000-yard men.

Davis' teammates still believe it's only a matter of time before he gets back on track.

''We know Domanick will be back to his old self. It's a long season,'' Carr said. ''He'll be running strong, just as good as he was before.''

And though the odds may be long, Davis hasn't abandoned hope of ultimately realizing his preseason goal.

''They didn't think I'd get 1,000 last year,'' Davis said, ''so you can never say never.''

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