Getting a gauge on Tyler Davis’ prospects with the Jaguars

Georgia Tech tight end Tyler Davis (9) and Georgia Tech offensive lineman Jared Southers (70) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, November 21, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com) (**EDNOTE: for future story of Tyler Davis and Jared Southers)

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Georgia Tech tight end Tyler Davis (9) and Georgia Tech offensive lineman Jared Southers (70) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, November 21, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com) (**EDNOTE: for future story of Tyler Davis and Jared Southers)

With a little bit of help from Georgia Tech offensive-line coach Brent Key, former Yellow Jackets tight end Tyler Davis got his foot in the NFL’s door. Now it’s up to him to turn it into something more. For a sixth-round pick, he looks like he could be in a good spot.

“He has a great opportunity in front of him,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone told Jacksonville media on a conference call Saturday after the draft’s conclusion. “He has the ability to do it, and we’ll see if he’s good enough.”

Marrone also shared that he had received a strong recommendation of Davis from Key. Marrone and Key are connected through Tech – Marrone served on then-coach George O’Leary’s staff from 1995-99, including his final three years as offensive-line coach. (Coach Geoff Collins arrived in 1999 as a graduate assistant.) Among Marrone’s players was Key, who started 44 games at right guard for the Jackets from 1997-2000. Marrone said that Key told him that he loved Davis, an endorsement that evidently carried weight.

Davis will be the fifth tight end on the Jaguars’ offseason roster. The position has been unstable and hit with injuries in Marrone’s tenure, going into its fourth full season. The Jaguars have had a different season-opening starter in each of Marrone’s first three seasons, and could well have another in the coming season, if and when it begins. The team signed seven-year veteran Tyler Eifert from Cincinnati as a free agent, and he figures to have the inside track to be the starter.

Backing him up are Davis’ competition – James O’Shaughnessy, Josh Oliver and Charles Jones. O’Shaughnessy has played five seasons, the past three with the Jaguars. He played five games last season before tearing his ACL. Jones was an undrafted free agent last year and was on the team’s practice squad before he was promoted to the 53-man roster and playing in four games. Oliver was a third-round pick last year, but didn’t make it through an injury-plagued rookie season.

O’Shaughnessy was playing well at the time of his injury; he would seem difficult for Davis to dislodge. But a training-camp battle between Jones, Oliver and Davis for the third (and likely last) tight-end spot seems a possibility. The Jaguars also signed an undrafted free agent at tight end, Ben Ellefson of North Dakota State, an FCS All-American.

“You always feel good about where you are from a standpoint of the players that you have,” Marrone said, “but you always want to create more competition and see if someone could beat somebody out.”

Davis and all rookies face a significant challenge in that almost certainly teams will not have the standard offseason series of minicamps and offseason workouts where rookies can learn their team’s plays and get acclimated to the NFL pace. They’ll have access to coaches through conference calls and can try to learn the playbook, but there’s no replacement for the learning done on the practice field.

“They’re going to have to come into training camp and go from there,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “They’ll be a little bit behind.”

Marrone praised Davis for having “a great skill set” and has “all the traits you’re looking for.” Davis showed at Tech that he can block, catch passes and play out of the slot, can line up in a three-point stance next to an offensive tackle, go in motion and position out wide as a wide receiver.

Davis was picked No. 206 overall. In the past two years, of the players drafted between 196 and 216, 27 of 42 were on their team’s opening-day roster. Many more were added to their team’s practice squad after getting cut. Chances are, if the Jaguars like Davis at the end of training camp as they do now, he’ll find a way to stay with the team through practice squad, where he can continue to develop.

But, that’s a long way off. He’ll have to come to camp as ready as he can, stay injury-free and be a quick study. In their draft-day conversation, Davis made an impression on Marrone, who pointed out to Davis that they are both New York guys, Marrone from the Bronx and Davis from Long Island.

“So he’s like, oh, that’s awesome,” Marrone said. “You know that us guys from New York, we’re some mean son of a guns.”

Marrone suggested that Davis didn’t quite say “son of a guns.”

“So I was like, all right, pretty cool,” Marrone said. “We’ll see. We’ll get a chance to see how mean you are when we get those pads on.”