When perusing the local papers over the past couple of days, I came across an interesting quote from Davone Bess in the Palm Beach Post. Bess spent some time talking with local middle school students about his tough childhood and how it's possible to rise above. But he also found time to discuss some football matters. In particular, Davone was asked what his role in 2010 might be now that the Dolphins have found that true number one receiver. His response?
"I don’t know. That’s the thing about this coaching staff. We just do what we’re asked, and the rest will take care of itself."
But let's be honest. Does anyone really expect Davone's role to change at all this year?
Bess is a guy who excels working out of the slot. He uses his quickness and his recognition to run great routes and get open. He's got outstanding hands. And the end result in 2009 was Bess ranking second in the entire NFL with 28 first down receptions on third down - just one behind the league leader.
Why would his role as slot receiver extraordinaire change now that Brandon Marshall is in the fold?
Here are some more numbers. Sixty of his 76 receptions came when there were at least three receivers on the field. Bess was targeted a team high 106 times (or 113 according to Stats Inc, which takes into account passes thrown in his direction but not catchable - like when the QB is clearly throwing the ball away, for example). His 71.7% catch percentage was 15th in the entire NFL. And his 330 yards after catch was a respectable 20th best in the league among all receivers last year - thanks in large part to the 11 missed/avoided tackles that Davone was credited with by ProFootballFocus, which was tied for 7th most among receivers.
On the flip side, Bess only averaged 10 yards per reception - ranking just 74th in the league among receivers who participated in at least half of their team's offensive snaps. And when Bess was on the field as either the lone wide receiver or on the field with just one other receiver, he averaged just 7.8 yards per receptions (on 11 such receptions in '09).
What these numbers tell me is that Davone is not really suited to be a starting receiver. He'll probably never be a household name to other fans across the nation. But that doesn't mean Bess will not be valuable to this team. Last year, Davone was probably the most valuable receiver on this team. Even with Marshall in town, I don't expect Davone's value to this offense to change much.
Will his total targets go down in 2010? Probably. But I still expect Bess to be the huge third down receiver that he was last year. In fact, Bess may be even more effective as the slot receiver now that opposing defenses will be forced to place extra emphasis on limiting Brandon Marshall's opportunities.
The big question as we head towards training camp does not involve Bess at all, in my opinion. His job is locked up. Instead, it centers around which receiver wins the starting job across from Marshall. Brian Hartline against Greg Camarillo. That's the real battle.