Michael Davis arrived at Hoag Performance Center after the bye last Monday and received some major news.
The second-year undrafted free agent would be making his first career start against the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s the type of news that millions of football fans dream about growing up, but Davis simply took it in stride.
It was just business as usual. He wouldn’t be making any adjustments to how he’d attack the week ahead.
“To be honest, it’s the same preparation whether you’re starting or not,” he said. “You’ve still got to prepare the same way because you never know when it’ll be your turn.”
It’ll be his turn once again this week as Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley told reporters he’ll be lined up across from Casey Hayward instead of Trevor Williams against the Oakland Raiders.
It’s a spot his earned.
“It wasn't that Trevor was playing bad,” Bradley explained. “He was doing some good things. You try to reward guys with opportunities when you see it on the practice field. Michael is a guy that we've seen it on the practice field week in and week out where he's being very competitive, and we felt like he needed a chance to play. He's rolled in some games prior to last week, but last week we gave him the opportunity to start.”
Davis always had the raw talent, speed and athleticism to succeed, but the coaches challenged him to up his physicality entering this season.
The 6-2, 196-pounder took it to heart, working diligently to improve that part of his game, taking up wrestling and boxing over the offseason.
“I took a bunch of wrestling classes,” he said. “I took a bunch of boxing classes to get my aggression out and to get all the technique down.”
It’s an idea he got from another second-year player in the secondary who just happened to win Defensive Player of the Week honors following the Week 9 win.
“The best tackler on the team last year was Desmond King,” Davis said, “He wrestled in high school and he’s obviously (transferred) that onto the field. So that’s why I’m taking a bunch of wrestling classes, to get the technique and my base down. I’ve just been going. I haven’t been really second guessing myself in the tackling.”
Bradley admitted his improved tackling played a big part in his promotion. He also has a ton of respect for the way Davis dedicated himself to shoring that area up over the past year.
“We ask a lot of our corners as far as getting involved in the run game, and that part we didn't see as consistently as we needed (a year ago),” Bradley said. “Michael is the type of guy that would put together his tackling tape and then come in and sit with the coaches and say, ‘Alright, let's go through this (together).’ So I think he identified that it was a weakness on his part, and really tried to attack it because he probably wouldn't get on the field unless he improved there. And then we saw it on special teams. We saw his toughness and his ability to make plays on special teams, and it kind of filtered over into the defensive side, so he's becoming a more consistent, willing tackler.”
Still, just because he’s now starting doesn’t mean Davis feels he’s arrived.
In fact, he was pretty hard on himself when asked to evaluate his performance vs. the Seahawks.
“I’d grade it a high C, low B,” he said. “Still room for improvement. I made a couple plays but there’s just some things I need to improve on (and) need to change. For sure my technique, especially on man. My eye control. Make sure my eyes are on the receiver, where the quarterback is or wherever else (they need to be).”
Just like he dedicated himself fully to improve his tackling over the offseason, Davis is equally passionate about studying tape to prepare for each game. To that end, he’s been in Adrian Phillips’ hip pocket as “AP” is regarded as an obsessive film junkie.
“I’ve just got to keep watching film with AP,” Davis said. “Keep watching film with the coaches and making sure that I’m (on top) of myself. AP really knows his stuff. He really loves to share (what he sees) on film when it comes to formation tendency and stuff like that. He knows everything about that. So it’s always good to talk to AP.”
Being in this position is nothing new for Phillips, and is something he takes deep pride in.
“I’m proud of him,” he said. “I was just like Mike, and I had guys take me under their wing and elevate me to another level. Now I want to elevate their game as well. I want to see everyone succeed, especially those undrafted free agent guys who weren’t really given a chance. A lot of guys count us as down and out. I want to see everyone be the best players they can be, so when Mike asks to stay late to watch film, I’m always there to do that.”
Check out the top practice photos as the Bolts get ready to face the Raiders for a divisional matchup in Oakland.