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Former USC tailback Justin Davis among Rams standouts in preseason

Rams running back Justin Davis runs a drill during a minicamp on May 12.
(Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

Running back Justin Davis played the last four seasons in the Coliseum, but the first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys felt different, at times surreal, for the Rams rookie and former USC standout.

On Sunday, a day after the Rams defeated the Cowboys 13-10, Rams coach Sean McVay said Davis stood out.

“This is a guy who’s shown up in practice,” McVay said. “But I thought Justin Davis showed his explosion.”

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Davis rushed for a team-high 70 yards in nine carries, including a 32-yard run. But he also fumbled — twice — in two of his first three carries.

After the game, Davis said he learned quickly that it was “definitely not college” and that players were “a whole lot bigger” and smarter.

“I made a couple mistakes here and there,” Davis said. “But all that matters is how I bounce back and how I can eliminate those mistakes in the future.”

Despite the fumbles, McVay liked what he saw.

“What impressed me the most about Justin was his ability to respond,” McVay said. “A lot of guys, you can let that affect you, but I didn’t sense that those two plays affected him, he came out and created some explosive runs after that, did a good job competing in protection.”

Davis joined the Rams as an undrafted free agent. It was a puzzling choice given the depth at running back with starter Todd Gurley and the acquisition of Lance Dunbar, who played five seasons with the Cowboys, and backups Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green.

But Dunbar was sidelined for most offseason workouts and has not participated in training camp drills because of a knee injury.

And Davis found himself inserted into Saturday’s game behind Gurley and Brown.

A roster spot, once deemed a long shot, now seems within reach.

“The job is still up for grabs,” Davis said, adding, “I never turn down a challenge and I love to compete.”

lindsey.thiry@latimes.com

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry


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