FLOWERY BRANCH — Once again, Dominique Davis is the new quarterback in camp, marveling at the work of established starter Matt Ryan. And Ryan is still impressed with the play of Davis.
Davis began his college career at Boston College, where he was redshirted in Ryan’s 2007 senior season.
Now Ryan and Davis, an undrafted rookie free agent from East Carolina, are together again with the Atlanta Falcons (No. 13 in the AP Pro32).
“Right back with him,” Davis said Monday. “It’s deja vu, pretty much. I’ll just do the same thing I was doing as a freshman at B.C., just learn from him.”
The Falcons opened training camp with Davis the fourth-string quarterback behind Ryan, Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson.
Davis looked like a candidate for the practice squad. Instead, he’s pushing for a roster spot as he could compete to be Ryan’s top backup.
Davis has surprised some with his strong arm and accuracy in the Falcons’ first two preseason games, prompting speculation he could push the 35-year-old Redman for the top backup job.
Ryan knew what to expect.
“I’ve been impressed with him but not surprised,” Ryan said Monday. “He came in my fifth year at Boston College, and he was a talented kid who worked hard. I was excited when I found out they were going to bring him in here, because I knew he was a good person.”
Coach Mike Smith had a strong compliment for Davis on Monday.
“Dominique has improved immensely from our rookie minicamp,” Smith said. “He’s probably shown the most improvement of any member of our football team. He’s getting a better understanding when he’s had his opportunities to perform. He’s done a nice job.”
Davis (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) has good size and also showed good mobility as he moved out of the pocket and avoided tacklers before finding receivers in the Falcons’ 24-19 preseason loss to the Bengals on Thursday night.
Davis, playing late in the game, completed his first eight passes and finished 11 of 18 for 121 yards with a touchdown.
The rookie said he’s again taking notes from watching Ryan, just as he did at Boston College.
“I always try to look in the future and envision myself being a great player, but just by watching him and the things he was doing, it was amazing,” Davis said. “I was just trying to repeat the things he was doing.”
Davis had another role model closer to home. He said he learned from older brother Desmond Clark what to expect in the NFL. Clark played 12 seasons as a tight end in the NFL, including eight with the Chicago Bears.
“Oh, it helped a lot,” Davis said. “I’ve never been with him in training camp. But during the season, I’ve been with him in the locker room. I’ve been in practices. I’ve been in meetings. I’ve been in all that type stuff. So I kind of knew the feel for everything already.”
The Falcons appear committed to adding more emphasis to their passing game with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Davis has experience in a passing attack. He passed for 7,192 yards and 62 touchdowns the past two years at East Carolina.
The gaudy passing numbers were not enough to get Davis drafted. He said he’s still trying to prove he belongs in the NFL.
“The main thing was I was trying to make the team, just trying to get on somebody’s roster somewhere,” Davis said.
“That’s all I’m trying to do. I’m here and I’m grateful for being here, but if things don’t happen right here, I want to make sure I put out good film so if somebody else sees it, maybe they’ll give me an opportunity.”
Davis is making an impact with his accuracy and arm strength. He earned appreciative whoops from his teammates on Monday after he threw a perfect sideline route to Marcus Jackson, just over cornerback Brent Grimes.
The rookie has Smith’s attention. He said he’ll let the best player win the backup job.
“Whoever the best backup guy is, whether he’s a 10-year vet or a rookie, is going to be our backup quarterback. I think you have to go out and let the play on the field be the evaluator.”
NOTES: Smith announced left tackle Will Svitek will miss the season after hurting his upper right arm in Sunday’s practice. Svitek was the top backup to Sam Baker. ... The Falcons had a scare Monday when receiver Roddy White appeared to hurt his shoulder when competing with safety William Moore for a catch. White hurled his helmet to the ground after the play and watched the remainder of the practice. He was joking with Moore about the play later and appeared to avoid injury. ... There were tense moments late in the full-pads practice when receiver Tim Toone had a brief fight with cornerback Peyton Thompson. Minutes later, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo had an exchange with defensive tackle Micanor Regis.
“We broke camp yesterday,” Smith said with a smile. “I don’t know if everybody went home and came back in a bad mood. Maybe we need to keep them here.”