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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Keep or Curb Davenport

The new coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a busy schedule, studying the team’s current roster, readying for the draft and settling itself in Pittsburgh.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to help them out a little by breaking down the team’s free agents and whether they fit into the team’s future plans or should be allowed to look for work elsewhere.

Next up on our list is running back Najeh Davenport, an unrestricted free agent.

The Steelers added Daveport to their roster after their opener last season against Miami and he slowly worked his way into the running back rotation behind starter Willie Parker.

At 6-1, 247 pounds, Davenport was used primarily as the team’s short-yardage back and, after a season-ending injury to Verron Haynes, a third-down back.

He also stepped in as a kick returner, averaging 21.7 yards on 19 attempts.

Davenport finished the season with a 3.4 yards per carry average on his 57 rushing attempts and also caught 15 passes for 193 yards. He scored one touchdown each rushing and receiving.

For a team that was searching for a big back to compliment Parker – especially after the failed Duce Staley experiment – Davenport was a free agent blessing for the Steelers. They were, in fact, lucky that he was released by Green Bay.

But let’s face the facts. As a short-yardage back, Davenport just doesn’t get much of a push, mostly because he runs too high. In fact, while his 3.4 yards per carry average doesn’t look bad for a short-yardage back, realize that he had a 48-yard carry against Kansas City that inflated even that.

Take away that 48-yard carry and Davenport’s average rushing attempt netted just 2.6 yards. That’s not getting the job done. Even in his final season, Jerome Bettis average 3.3 yards per carry.

Davenport did show something as a receiver and blocker on third downs, but can’t this team do better?

A draft pick would certainly come cheaper than Davenport at this point and would offer plenty of more upside.

Verdict: Curb him.

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