Last Nov. 5, running back Mike Davis sat at his locker at Halas Hall. He knew what was coming later in the week.
The Bears, after giving him only 71 offensive snaps all season, could help their case for a compensatory draft pick by cutting him. And they did, four days later.
“Things happen,” Davis said then. “So my mindset is always to just be ready, no matter what.”
Turns out, he was ready all along. Two days after the Bears cut him, the Panthers claimed him to be star Christian McCaffrey’s backup.
He has shown his worth the last three games. Since the Panthers put McCaffrey on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, Davis has 45 carries for 219 yards and two touchdowns. His 30 receptions for 206 yards this season trail only the Saints’ Alvin Kamara among running backs. He leads the NFL with 21 broken tackles.
He has looked like a star.
“Mike Davis has come in and taken full advantage of his opportunity,” Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said Thursday. “We all know that he was here, so there’s gonna be extra motivation. Like he needs it — he’s a damn beast as it is.”
Davis would sure look nice in the backfield next to David Montgomery, playing the pass-catching role that injured Tarik Cohen once did — or maybe even playing instead of Montgomery, who has yet to prove he’s even a league-average starter.
After giving Davis a two-year, $6 million contract, then ignoring him and waiving him, the Bears will get a front-row view of his hard-charging runs Sunday.
How did they miss so badly? They fell in love with a different running back — Montgomery, whom they drafted in the third round two months after signing the veteran Davis — and lacked the creativity to find Davis a role.
“We ended up having the ability to get David last year after we picked up Mike, so we had a couple backs there with Tarik,” coach Matt Nagy said. “So it just happened to be that way.”
Davis had only eight career starts when the Bears signed him, but they somehow couldn’t fold him into a busy backfield. And they bet big on Montgomery, who finished last season ranked 39th among regular NFL running backs with an average of 3.7 yards per carry. That experience hasn’t exactly caused Montgomery to blossom this year; he now ranks 31st with 3.9 yards per carry.
“It was kind of the situation that we were in,” running backs coach Charles London said. “David was playing pretty well, and we tried to get him some more touches. And it’s just kind of how it happened.”
Davis said he never got a good explanation for why he wasn’t used more last season.
“I don’t know what happened in that department,” he told Panthers reporters Wednesday.
It motivates him, though.
“Anybody would be [mad] when they’re cut,” he said. “I don’t know any other way to take it.”
From a guy who already runs angrily, that’s a scary thought.
“We’ve got to take on blocks, we’ve got to get off blocks, we’ve got to swarm this guy,” Pagano said. “We’ve got to tackle. If we tackle like we did last week, he’ll have 200 yards on us.”