There have been more explosive NFL debuts, but for a rookie free agent LB from Queens, NY, by way of Central Florida, Troy Davis didn't do badly at Cincinnati.
"I was excited. I was out there and I was rewarded with an opportunity to go out and compete and help the team," Davis told me this week. "I just wanted to make sure I showed the coaches and my team that I can go out there and play like a Jet."
The day's list of achievements was fairly strong for his 27 plays on specials.
■ His first contribution was getting held by the Bengals' Taylor Mays on punt coverage, a 10-yard penalty that he didn't even know he drew, midway through the first quarter.
■ He had two tackles, not a bad day's haul. One came on a punt return late in the first quarter, the other on kickoff coverage in the third frame.
■ He even got some yardage for his NFL résumé, a 7-yard kickoff return on Mike Nugent's squibber at the end of the first half.
I asked Davis how many "teams" he played on. "I'm on all four and then field goal block," he said, so he was put to use on punt return and cover, kickoff return and cover and the kick block unit. What's his favorite?
"Probably punt return, just because I know the defense got a 3-and-out or made a stop and we love for the other team to be punting," he said, adding that one other perk of that unit is blocking for Josh Cribbs. "Hopefully I've got my hat on somebody and I'm not watching him, but yeah, he's an exciting player to watch."
When the special teams come out, everyone's attracted to the guys who either run like the wind as Cribbs still does or kick through all kinds of breezes as Nick Folk has been doing with his field goals all year.
But the players like Davis and S Rontez Miles, who was signed from the practice squad to our active roster Friday, are the specials' lifeblood in the NFL, mostly young players who want a shot at playing some defense or offense but have to earn their keep first by running in front of or under kicks. I sense specials aren't quite the stigma they used to be in the league, but they're still a bus stop on the way to more permanent quarters.
"Troy's done a great job — you saw it in training camp. He's a high-energy guy," said teams leader Nick Bellore. "Rontez is doing well, too. He's a guy that made a bunch of plays in the preseason that we're excited about."
Davis is taking his time on special teams the right way — they did, after all, make his pro debut possible.
"Yeah, it's a great feeling," he said, "just coming in on the path I had to take, being an undrafted free agent. The more opportunities you take advantage of, the more the players and coaches trust you and you get more opportunities. That's the process I'm in right now, doing my job to help my team."
There are no guarantees Davis will even be active Sunday for the Saints, but he showed he's a guy who can make some plays, a guy who maybe can be trusted. Whether Troy is up or down tomorrow, the scoreboard for him still reads: One down, the rest of a career to go. *Special Teams Saturday