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Welcome, Rook, To the NFL
Eagle Rookie tackle Antone Davis had four pro games under his belt, but he hadn't played in prime time, he hadn't gone up against a Pro Bowl player, and he hadn't faced an unbeaten team in a truly hostile atmosphere—until Philadelphia's Sept. 30 Monday night game with the Redskins, in which he lined up opposite Charles Mann at RFK Stadium. The Eagles had given away their first-round pick in the 1992 draft to move up in the '91 draft and select Davis, an All-America at Tennessee, because they needed him at right tackle in situations like this one.
On the game day, Davis sat in his northern Virginia hotel room, trying to relax. "I was nervous," he would say later. "It was the biggest challenge I'd faced as a player. So many people would be watching. I knew Mann was good, the best I'd ever played."
Mann was a little nervous, too, but for a different reason. He had watched Davis on film but couldn't find any tendencies. Part of being a good offensive lineman is not giving away your first move with some idiosyncrasy before the ball is snapped. "I went into the game not knowing what to expect," said Mann. "I just knew he was a load." Because he weighs 325 pounds to Mann's 270, Davis did not expect Mann to bull-rush him, to plow into him in an attempt to reach the quarterback. But part of Mann's job is a chess game: What does Davis expect me to do? What should I do instead? So the second time Philly had the ball, Mann decided to bull-rush.
On first down from the Philly 20, with the crowd roaring, Davis moved before the snap. False start. Five-yard penalty. First-and-15. "It's the loudest place I've ever played," said Davis afterward. "I just couldn't hear."
As Eagle quarterback Jim McMahon dropped back to pass on the ensuing snap, Mann startled Davis by plowing into him. Davis, feeling that Mann was running over him, grabbed Mann and dragged him down. Holding. Seven-yard penalty. First-and-22. Two plays later, on third-and-seven, Mann bull-rushed again, pushing Davis back, back, back—and into McMahon. Sack. Six-yard loss. Punt.
The rest of the night wasn't much better for Davis, who wound up allowing two sacks, missing two blocks that left Philly quarterbacks vulnerable to getting smashed, and being penalized four times. Afterward, Davis proved to be more of a stand-up guy, meeting four waves of the press. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "After a game like this, you can get better or you can get worse. I believe I'll get better. Ten years from now, when I'm playing a rookie, maybe I'll do the same thing to him that Mann did to me tonight."
Davis had better focus on the near future. In the next three games, he'll face potent pass rushers Rickey Jackson of the Saints, Tim Harris of the 49ers, and Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor, both of the Giants.
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