Mike Davis and the fallacy of competition

By Jared Stanger

Here’s the thing…we’re being lied to. The lie at its core is that catch phrase: “Always Compete”. The way you know it’s a lie are two-fold. 1) There would be a hell of a lot more pressure on coaches like Bevell and Cable to compete to KEEP THEIR FUCKING JOBS. 2) The guys that WIN competitions would actually get to KEEP THEIR FUCKING JOBS.

For now I’m going to talk about the latter. This is the guys like Kasen Williams and Pierre Desir that competed this summer, won the competition, and had their jobs given to other people. Those two are gone now, signed to other teams, and we won’t be getting them back without luck or paying a price that exceeds the value we got for cutting them.

But it might not be too late to save Mike Davis.

Mike Davis won the preseason RB competition. Chris Carson got the headlines because he’s the bright, shiny new toy fresh out of the draft, but Davis played better than the whole group.

Statistically, here are the numbers:

I posted that a couple weeks ago and someone argued it was inverse of when guys got touches and the level of competition they faced. If you actually watched, though, Chris Carson was getting 1st quarter touches A LOT, and Davis was running the end of the 2nd quarter in at least two of the four games. Here’s Davis in the Minnesota game catching a TD pass from Russell Wilson:

Davis showed good route running and sense for finding the soft spot underneath.

This, vs KC, is nice by Davis finding the opening. If Joeckel and/or Britt had picked up a block, this might have gone for 20 yards.

For whatever reason, Russell and the active RB in the Green Bay game seemed to have trouble connecting on these simple checkdown type plays. Russell, I think, showed good chemistry with Davis as his outlet guy.

Offhand, I don’t remember how well the active RB did in terms of chip-blocking vs GB. I think I spotted one play that Prosise missed his assignment, but I didn’t go back and watch for that specifically.

Here are some Mike Davis blocks.

I’d be curious how this one was designed. Are both backs supposed to block this way? I don’t know, but backside is contained.

This is one of the better RB blocks I saw this preseason.

Now let’s actually watch some run plays.

My contention is that Davis ran the zone scheme better than any of the Seattle backs in preseason. Keys to running zone are timing and decision-making. The RB’s footworks/steps should be in line with the OL’s synchronized footwork. And the RB should be decisive; choosing in-rhythm whether to take the frontside lane, or to cut it back.

Here, we’ve got OL blocking well to the playcall of wide zone. Biggest concern is that backside chaser. Davis escapes that ankle tackle and then has freedom to improvise at the 2nd level.

Wide zone the other way. I think a TE should be peeling off that double team to pick up the incoming LB. Not a well-blocked play, but Davis shows ability to adapt. This is something Lacy, specifically, could not do Sunday.

This is the type of play that isn’t splashy, but that shows better understanding of the system, better decision making, and great effort. This play could have gone for loss, then could have gone for only 2 yard gain, but Mike makes it into a 4-yard gain.

This is just tremendous feel by Davis. Defender is getting too deep in outside contain and Mike pulls hard back inside, breaks the foot tackle, gets extra yardage falling forward during tackle.

Moving on to the Vikings game.

This is another minor play, but shows again Mike making 4 yards out of what could/would be 2 for other RB.

This play needs to be run slow-mo or paused. Davis is 2 yards deep in the EZ, but already reading Viking DL coming free from his left, and cutting it back right for positive yardage.

One of the better zone plays this game. Mike has two-way go at handoff: he can follow Madden through frontside, but his eye is drawn to the opening backside between TE and LT. Viking DB breaks for Mike’s running lane, but his overpursuit leaves no one outside contain, so Mike cuts outside…huge gain. Good block by Vannett (who we need to feature more).

Same play from endzone view.

I didn’t go through the Raider game, so we’ll be ending on the KC tape.

 

Glow wiffs on his cutblock backside, so Mike is forced to get skinny. Positive yardage, though.

I think this was Mike’s first touch of the KC game. Fortunately the OLB was reading play action pass all the way and took himself out of the play. Easy read for Davis to bounce it outside and pick up a nice chunk of yardage.

And Mike closes the play initiating contact with the defender with his helmet right under dude’s chin, plus the fall forward over the first down line-to-gain.

There’s just nothing in his tape that tells me that Mike Davis wasn’t consistently one of Seattle’s top four RB throughout the preseason. Stats support it. Tape supports it. Fundamentals support it. And if you want to get a little romantic about it…the W-L record supports it: 4-0 with Mike Davis on the team, 0-1 with him now off the active roster.

If we’re making decisions based on competition; I don’t see how Mike Davis hasn’t won at least a job on the active roster. It’s supposed to be “ALWAYS Compete”; not “compete except when we’ve overdrafted you, or paid you more than you’re worth.”

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