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Old 12-28-2007, 06:26 AM   #1
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Default Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

I have the utmost confidence in Najeh to get the job done.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07362/844970-66.stm

Steelers' Davenport is focused on chance as starter

Friday, December 28, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Najeh Davenport picks up yardage against the Rams in the second quarter at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.It was 12:30 p.m., about a half hour before practice, and Najeh Davenport was sitting at his locker, feeling uncomfortable.

On most days, Davenport would have been in a special-teams meeting, getting his assignments for kickoff return and punt coverage -- the two units on which he played this season.

But these are not usual days anymore for Davenport. Not for him, not for the Steelers.

His responsibilities have changed, and changed drastically, since Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker's season ended because of a cracked fibula last week. Now, Davenport does not have to go to special-teams meetings anymore.

All he has to worry about is replacing Parker, the NFL's leading rusher at the time of his injury. And carrying the Steelers' running game on his shoulders, beginning Sunday in Baltimore and continuing into the AFC playoffs.

That's all.

"I presume I'll get a big workload," Davenport said.

Davenport will be making the third start of his six-year NFL career when the Steelers (10-5) conclude their regular season against the Ravens (4-11), who have the league's longest losing streak (nine games). And he is right about one thing: He will get a huge workload, something to which he is not accustomed.

It might not come against the Ravens, if only because offensive coordinator Bruce Arians also wants to get some work for Gary Russell, who will be Davenport's backup on first and second down. Russell, a rookie free agent, has been inactive for 13 of the previous 15 games.

But it will most certainly come in the postseason. Parker is the only running back in the league with more than 300 carries, even though he was injured on his first carry in the 41-24 victory against the St. Louis Rams last week.

Davenport is already off to a good start, carrying 24 times for 123 yards and scoring two touchdowns against the Rams.

"It was getting a chance to show a lot of people around Pittsburgh who think of me as a back they brought over from Green Bay that turned out to be all right," Davenport said. "A lot of people know what I can do and lot of people are surprised what I did."

Davenport's performance against the Rams -- he also caught a 12-yard touchdown and a 32-yard pass on a fake punt -- was the third game in a row and ninth this season the Steelers have had a 100-yard rusher.

The Ravens, though, lead the AFC in rush defense, allowing an average of 81.5 yards per game. They also have not allowed a Steeler to rush for 100 yards since Jerome Bettis in 2004.

Of course, the Rams had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season until Davenport gouged them with his best performance in two seasons with the Steelers.

"Me and Willie, I think we have the same style," said Davenport, who weighs 250 pounds. "Willie was more of a between-the-tackles, bounce-it-outside kind of guy and I'm a between-the-tackles, bounce-it-outside guy."

But even Arians concedes the Steelers lose their "explosiveness" with Parker out for the season.

"Najeh is more of a downhill runner," said guard Alan Faneca. "We can expect the linebacker's reaction to be a little quicker because he's hitting the hole and coming downhill. People were a little more cautious about Willie -- which hole is he going to hit? Things like that, we can anticipate and be ready for."

Left tackle Max Starks -- who will start for injured Marvel Smith --said, "Willie and Najeh are two different types of backs. Willie is always one who is going to try to get to the edge. Najeh likes to run more between tackles. ... he's not going to vacate to the outside."

Perhaps.

But, at least, he doesn't have to worry about special teams anymore. Or attending the meetings. He has bigger concerns now.

"Being that I've been playing special teams since I've been here, it's kind of hard not to go to special-teams meeting," Davenport said. "Right now, the special-teamers are in a special-teams meeting and some of starters are around locker room. That's about the hardest part for me. The internal clock in the back of your head is saying, 'Aren't you supposed to be somewhere?' "

He is.

Carrying the Steelers' running game.
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Old 12-28-2007, 07:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

I don't even think you play the guy much against the Ravens....we need him healthy for the playoffs...

Lets see what this Russell kid can do against the Ravens D. Show me some playing time against the Ravens and lets see if he lives up to this hype he seems to have around here.
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Old 12-28-2007, 07:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

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I don't even think you play the guy much against the Ravens....we need him healthy for the playoffs...

Lets see what this Russell kid can do against the Ravens D. Show me some playing time against the Ravens and lets see if he lives up to this hype he seems to have around here.
I couldn't agree more - Dookie is our #1 RB now, and we really don't "need" this game, although it would be nice to sweep the AFCN for the year. I say give him a series or two, and then sit him. This team is banged up enough as it is.
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:43 AM   #4
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

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I couldn't agree more - Dookie is our #1 RB now, and we really don't "need" this game, although it would be nice to sweep the AFCN for the year. I say give him a series or two, and then sit him. This team is banged up enough as it is.
Agreed.
The last thing we need is for him to get injured so lets have the younger guys go out there and get there 60 min of fame.
Ward should stay in the WHOLE game for the comments from Bart Simpson i mean Bart Scott saying he was gonna get it hehe!
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Old 12-28-2007, 09:47 AM   #5
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

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Ward should stay in the WHOLE game for the comments from Bart Simpson i mean Bart Scott saying he was gonna get it hehe!
Normally I'd agree, but we need Hines for the playoffs as well, and I don't trust Scott not to take a cheap shot. If it were week 5, by all means, let Hines go out there and knock him on his ass again.
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Old 12-28-2007, 10:14 AM   #6
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

Sounds as if Russell will get some significant touches. With Haynes not even having practiced since last summer until this week he definitely needs some game contact as well.

This is one beat up team - it would be nice to get through a game with no more injuries.
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Old 12-28-2007, 03:17 PM   #7
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

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This is one beat up team - it would be nice to get through a game with no more injuries.
AMEN Dan.

To keep them honest, I'd like to see all of the backs getting some action. Before last week, Pooper didn't really get significant play in the backfield so give him a couple of series and then sit him for the rest of the game, allowing Russell and Haynes to split the rest of the carries.
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Old 12-28-2007, 03:18 PM   #8
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

Give Haynes a little, but give Russell a load. We at least know Davenport, Davis and Haynes can play.
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Old 12-28-2007, 04:07 PM   #9
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

It is going to be a different steeler team and game playing the Jags this time around.
It is going to be neat to see the faces of all those jumping on the Jags bandwagon wonder what happened to them when the Steelers beat them.

Boils down to Ben vs Garrard......... I am picking ... Ben
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Old 12-28-2007, 06:49 PM   #10
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Default Re: Davenport Focused As Steelers Starting RB

i would like to see more plays like lead, power, and ISO plays more than draws and toss plays. i want to see a power running game.
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