Although the Texans have brought back RBs David Johnson, Buddy Howell and Dontrell Hilliard, more additions could and should be made. Mike Davis had a career year for the Panthers, accumulating 1,015 all purpose yards and has even said He’s following Tyrell Adams wherever he signs
NFL Free Agent Profile: Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers
Age: 27, Height: 5'9, Weight: 221lbs
40 yard dash: 4.61s, Vertical Jump: 34", 3-cone drill: 7s
Davis hasn't had many opportunities to prove himself before 2020, starting just 10 games in the past 5 years. But boy did he show out for the Panthers, being a threat in the run and pass game. Davis is a tough runner and that physicality is a needed element to help improve a 32nd ranked Texans run game.
My favorite part about Mike Davis is that he's a bad offensive line's best friend. The Panthers OL, especially their interior, was pretty horrendous and constantly made Davis' job tougher than it needed to be. The Texans run game suffered from the same fate, and David and Duke Johnson weren't good enough at adding extra yards that weren't blocked for them. But ladies and gentlemen, that is the name of Mike Davis' game.
Fit with Texans
Before I get into the specific run schemes that the Texans employ and how Davis fits, I wanted to show what makes him such a successful runner in the first place. These traits translate to any scheme - his contact balance, ability to break arm tackles and make defenders miss with jump cuts or spin moves are super valuable.
It's rare the first defender brings Davis down, and one arm is not enough to slow down his motor. The Texans are lacking a physical presence, although David Johnson has good size, he's not a bruising back who will break many tackles, but Davis is.
Clip 1 (Falcons): LB 54 tries to wrap up Davis by the waist but no luck. Then Davis hurdles a CB and adds on more yards.
Clip 2 (Cardinals): OLB 58 gets into Davis' body but is tossed to the ground.
Clip 3 (Cardinals): Davis spins away from the penetrating DT, making up for his bad OL's mistakes.
The ability to add yards that aren't blocked for Davis is something that will help him translate his success to the Texans. Now, let's talk about scheme fit...
Offensive Co-Ordinator Tim Kelly loved calling runs behind a poor Texans interior offensive line. Out of 252 runs, 81 were directly behind the Center, and 165 were behind the Center, Left Guard or Right Guard, good for 65%. He did this despite both David and Duke Johnson clearly being better at running outside of the tackles.
So for now, let's imagine Kelly doesn't change his scheme, and still insists on running it up the A gap on gap/power style runs. Davis has shown an ability to bounce runs to the outside, when nothing is available up the middle. The willingness to even try a cut like this is something DJ never tried and succeeded with. It's a refreshing sight to see.
Davis is also good at reading power runs with a puller. The Panthers pull their RG and Davis follows his outside hip. He takes a slight step inside and that manipulates LB Roquan Smith inside as well. Then, Davis bounces outside to avoid Smith and pickup extra yardage. The ability to manipulate defenders and maximize yards is beautiful.
So Davis can run gap/power, but in this video I showed how new Texans Center Justin Britt is best suited for an outside zone scheme. The same can be said for LG Max Scharping and LT Laremy Tunsil, so the Texans have the personnel to execute it if they want to.
Luckily, Davis has the traits to run this style as well. In outside zone, you need good vision, quick mental processing, quick feet to make cuts and acceleration to burst through the hole. Davis shows all of that on this one run.
Running outside zone off the left tackle, Davis first sees his TE being blown back. That causes some hesitation as he can't run outside. Out of his peripherals he sees a LB shooting through the backside B gap. He takes a slight step towards the LB, pressing towards the middle, then accelerates outside, behind the LT. This change of pace messes with the LBs pursuit angle and allows Davis to get the big gain.
While Davis is a strong runner, he also succeeds in the pass game, gaining 373 receiving yards on 53 catches. The Panthers schemed him touches on screens quite often, and those were extremely hit or miss because the Panthers OL was horrible at blocking in space for Davis. These screens would either net a 20 yard gain, or 2 yard loss. See below
Tim Kelly didn't scheme up many (if any) screens for RBs in 2020, so I wouldn't expect Davis to have similar receiving production. But, he's actually a better route runner than I thought he was.
On this play he's running an option route out of the backfield. He can cut in or out, depending on the LBs leverage. LB 50 is heavily leveraged inside, so Davis gives him a hard fake inside, then bursts outside, getting wide open.
Davis is a very good all around back, who deserves more praise for the 2020 season he had, and the traits he possesses. The only thing I would say he lacks is top end speed, you won't catch him breaking many explosive runs, but that's not super important in the grand scheme of things. Davis can churn out those consistent 3, 4, 5, yard gains and pop the occasional 10, and that style makes me very happy.
Overthecap values Davis at 3m per year which I think is the perfect contract for the Texans. Davis would instantly be the most talented RB on the roster. While management might still have David Johnson start, Davis can work well in a committee. Paying him 3m per year instead of backup Duke Johnson at 5m, makes more financial sense,.
Projected Contract: 3 years, 10m
At 27, Mike Davis isn't too old, thus you're not limited to a one year deal. He's someone who won't break the bank and hurt a rebuilding timeline, but also helps provide a steady run game to make whoever's at QB life easier. Once David Johnson's contract expires next year, Davis can potentially take over as RB1.
There's a lot to like about Davis and not really anything to hate. I've gotten to the point where I want Tyrell Adams to be resigned solely for the purpose of hopefully bringing Davis with him. Signing him would yield a similar impact as signing Carlos Hyde, two years ago. A tough, physical runner who maximizes yards and makes up for a lackluster run blocking OL. Nick Casserole, you can jump a few levels up the casserole scale by signing Mike Davis. That should be all the incentive you need, DO IT!