On the surface, Nate Davis wouldn’t appear to be in any better position right now than he was a year ago.
Last May, Davis had joined the 49ers as a fifth-round draft choice and was swimming in Jimmy Raye’s playbook, firmly entrenched behind the guys competing for the starting quarterback job, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Flash-forward a year and Davis is still No. 3 – now behind Smith and his primary backup, David Carr. What’s more, there’s even an undrafted free agent, West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown, in the building to put a little pressure on Davis.
Speaking last week at the 49ers’ OTAs, however, the second-year QB said the feeling was a night-and-day difference.
“I’m a lot more comfortable in the huddle and on the field, you know, actually running the play, because I have more understanding of the play and what’s going on,” Davis said while sitting in front of his locker.
A year ago, like most rookie quarterbacks, he was thinking too much and reacting too little. That’s not a good formula for Davis, who used improvisational skills, natural leadership and a powerful arm to excel at Ball State. The wheels were turning so fast he couldn’t be who he really is.
“Then you start guessing, and in the NFL you can’t guess, because everybody’s a lot faster, the game’s a lot quicker,” he noted. “So you have to know what you’re doing.”
That has always been the issue for Davis, who dropped to the fifth round in 2009 after everyone read stories of the learning disability that had made him a poor reader, and reports that he had scored an 11 on the Wonderlic test at the NFL scouting combine. Some anonymous sources questioned his ability to grasp an NFL offense.
Davis, who has been called a strong visual learner, has never doubted his own aptitude for football. But he has yet to receive much of an opportunity here in San Francisco. After a strong preseason showing last year – 29 completions in 49 attempts for 314 yards, with two touchdown passes, one interception and an overall rating of 83.2 – he got very few repetitions at quarterback during the regular season. More often, he played wide receiver or even defense for the scout team.
“Actually, I’m not even worried about my role right now,” Davis said. “What I’m worried about is getting everything down pat. Knowing that playbook like it’s my name.”
While Carr clearly entered the offseason as the No. 2, Davis was encouraged to get some reps with the first and second offensive units at the OTAs. He’s not looking for any guarantees from the 49ers. Just an opportunity to prove himself in the huddle.
“It always feels good to get reps,” Davis said. “Because they’re giving me a chance. They’re not just putting me in the back, you know, just listening. They’re actually giving me reps.”