When word surfaced that the Bears were intending to sign Mike Davis, a sense of disappointment settled over Bears Twitter. After all, Davis wasn’t the free agent running back for which fans had been clamoring when the “legal tampering” period opened up (that would be someone whose name rhymes with Schmeveon Bell).
HOWEVER, Davis is a solid role player whose addition to Chicago’s collection of backs shouldn’t be overlooked (and whose presence shouldn’t really hurt the Bears chances of landing a bigger fish, anyway).
Indeed, Davis has some worthwhile skills that could be valuable to the Bears’ backfield moving forward. In addition to having played under a light work-load with the 49ers and Seahawks during the first two years of his career, Davis looks like a player who can scoot in the open field, break tackles, and see the field well. There isn’t much of a sample with which to work, but clearly the Bears saw something (or multiple somethings) that pushed them to secure a commitment from Davis at the outset of free agency.
Let’s get to know him a bit, eh?
Player, Age (in 2019), Position
Mike Davis, 26, running back
- 2 years, $7 million
- $7 million maximum value
- via Ian Rapoport, NFL Network
- Season stats: 15 games (2 starts), 112 rushes, 514 yards, 4 TD; 34 catches, 214 yards, 1 TD
Davis set career-highs in carries (112), receptions (34), total touches (146), rushing yards (514), receiving yards (214), scrimmage yards (728), and total touchdowns (5). I suppose there is no better time to play your best than right before you’re about to hit free agency. Davis made the most of the additional looks that came with the Seahawks backfield being unsettled at points throughout the 2018 season.
From an analytics perspective, Pro Football Focus’ grading system appears to like what Davis did last season in Seattle. His 75.0 overall grade was the 25th best among the 62 running backs who qualified for the leaderboard. Davis’ 68.7 grade ranked ahead of Benny Cunningham (65.8) and Jordan Howard (65.2), but well behind Tarik Cohen (82.3) – who the site’s metrics pegged as the eighth-best pass-catching back.
Again, we’re looking at a small-ish sample, as Davis played on just 409 snaps in 2018. That would have ranked third behind Howard (646) and Cohen (541) on the Bears’ depth chart.
- Career stats: 35 games (9 starts), 234 carries, 862 yards, 5 TD; 59 catches, 408 yards, 1 TD
- Per 16 games: 58.5 carries, 215.5 yards, 1.3 TD; 14.8 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD.
- Pro Football Focus grades: 55.7 (2015), 41.6 (2016), 64.1 (2017), 75.0 (2018).
I apologize if I’m coming off as repetitive, but there isn’t much to work with here when it comes to Davis’ NFL history. Check out his snap counts on offense by year, per Pro Football Reference: 126, 66, 175, 391. See, I told you there wasn’t much to write home about.
Ah, yes. This would be a good time to share Davis’ special teams upside – especially if the team will be without the likes of Joshua Bellamy (and presumably Cunningham) next season. Davis didn’t play on special teams as a rookie, but picked up 63 special teams snaps in 2016 with the 49ers and 38 more with the Seahawks last year. It’s not an extensive amount of experience, but it could be enough to pencil him into that role once we get to the point where we’re filling out depth charts.
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 11, 2019
The most serious injury in Davis’ history is a broken hand in 2015 that caused him to miss seven weeks during that season, but he was active for the season finale that year. He also had a groin issue flare up that cost him a game in 2017. Other than that, Davis has been fortunate from a health standpoint.
A Scouting Report in 280 Characters or Less
Mike Davis — Gets downhill with some speed. Pretty good balance on contact. Footwork is there to slip tackles. Should play a role in the screen package for Bears O + swing routes, quick throw to the flat, check down. https://t.co/nJCOiw73GI
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 12, 2019
Davis isn’t going to re-write the record books at Halas Hall. But what he provides is an upgrade from the reserve backs the Bears had on last year’s roster. Because while Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell had their flashes, Davis is younger than Cunningham and has produced more than Mizzell.
There was a time when Davis was viewed as a fantasy sleeper because of the versatility in his game. Those days are likely behind us, but the ability to provide impact as a receiver and rusher should make the Bears’ offense less predictable whenever he’s in the formation. The unpredictability factor can go a long way in Matt Nagy’s scheme.
“I practice every week like I’m going to be the starter, so it won’t be a surprise to me when that time comes,” Davis said after his 21-carry, 101-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Cardinals.
Considering how liberally the Bears head coach uses his reserve running backs, that’s the type of mindset that will be successful in Chicago. Nagy isn’t shy to call on any back at any given moment, so preparedness is key.