Mike Davis played in seven games before the Bears cut him last year, rushing 11 times for 25 yards and catching seven passes for 22 yards. He was jettisoned to preserve a compensatory draft pick, which the Bears later shipped to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Nick Foles trade.
Davis was billed as an adept pass-catching running back with some upside after averaging 4.6 yards per carry and catching 34 passes for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018. But he wound up a sparingly-used casualty of the Bears’ offensive implosion last year.
“Anybody would be pissed off when they’re cut,” Davis said this week. “I don’t know any other way to take it.”
Guess what Davis has been with the Carolina Panthers in 2020? An adept pass-catching running back who’s making good on his rushing upside.
Davis has 46 rushes for 220 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and already has 30 receptions for 206 yards with three total touchdowns. He’s taken full advantage of Christian McCaffrey’s absence, which will continue this weekend when the Bears play the Panthers in Charlotte.
“We all know that he was here so there's gonna be extra motivation, like he needs it,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “He's a damn beast as it is.”
Davis, though, downplayed the idea of Sunday being a revenge game for him.
“I’m just treating it like another game,” Davis said. “I’m a veteran, so I don’t want to go out there and try to do more than what I do. So I don’t want to go out there and try to make a play and have it end up being bad. So I’m treating it as a regular week for me.”
Classic. That’s exactly what a player says when, internally, he’s thinking about showing the team that cut him just how dumb they were.
Davis’ patience and vision on screen passes has shown up this year in Joe Brady’s Panthers offense. Half his 30 catches have come behind the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus, and his 32 targets, 30 catches and 206 yards are all second only to Alvin Kamara among running backs.
"He's having a great season so far," Bears running backs coach Charles London said. "... He's running well, he's doing really good things out of the backfield in the passing game, he's a good protector, and I'm glad it's all coming together for him."
Davis will provide a tough challenge for Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in coverage, certainly. But the Bears just allowed Bucs running back Ronald Jones II to gouge them for 106 yards in Week 5. Davis knows the Bears’ defense, and knows how much they’re missing Eddie Goldman.
This is a back who describes himself as running “pissed off” already. How much more pissed off is he going to be when the guys he’s running into have an orange “C” on their helmets?
“We’ve gotta swarm this guy. We've gotta tackle,” Pagano said. “If we tackle like we did last week, he'll have 200 yards on us.”