It hasn’t been an easy sixth season for Chargers cornerback Michael Davis. He had to be patient and wait his turn until his number was called again.
The Chargers decided to bring in the number one rated free agent cornerback J.C. Jackson from the New England Patriots. That meant Davis’s starting position was now Jackson’s.
He struggled in 2021 in Staley’s defensive system. During training camp, Davis pointed to the fact that he was going through personal issues, which was a reason for his struggles.
The former BYU cornerback struggled to stay with receivers, missed tackles, and had some head-scratching plays. Davis had to earn his way back because the rest of the defensive starting spots were filled.
The defense has a young cornerback in Asante Samuel Jr., that continues to show flashes of being a quality starter plus, Brandon Staley brought in Bryce Callahan to play in the slot. There was no playing time for Davis.
Davis was a team player. Even when he was placed on special teams, it could have been frustrating, but he went to his mom for guidance.
“I think what helped me stay positive was I talked to my mom a lot,” Davis said. “My mom used to always tell me, ‘Keep grinding. One day you will get your shot.’ I guess that one day I did get my shot, and I was able to stay ready.”
His chance came in a week six matchup against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. Jackson had allowed two big plays in the first half of the game, so the coaching staff called upon Davis in the third quarter.
Davis came in, and the defense settled down while only allowing the Broncos to score only a field goal for the rest of the game.
It was a short-lived victory as he was sent back to his role of special teams for the following game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Jackson was hurt on a touchdown reception by Seahawks receiver Marquise Goodwin. He suffered a ruptured patellar tendon, so his season was over.
Davis was excited about being back in the starting lineup but felt terrible about the injury to Jackson.
“I just felt like, even at practice, me and J.C. [Jackson] were always pushing each other at practice,” Davis explained. “We were helping each other out. He was giving me tips on how to play things better, and I was helping him out with the defense because obviously, this is his first year in the defense. I think that’s what helped me actually to come in the game and just play as if I never really left the position.”
His first start was against the Atlanta Falcons. The Chargers defense got off to a slow start for the fourth straight game giving up a 44-yard run while also being down 10-0.
“I think we just came together and just told each other, ‘One play at a time,'” Davis said. “I know the first series looked pretty bad on us, but I think, overall, when we came back in the second quarter, we just had that ‘next play’ mentality, just a ‘one play at a time’ mentality.”
They settled in.
No receiver or tight end for the Falcons went for more than 27 yards receiving. The defense held them to 12 catches for 129 yards and only scored a touchdown the rest of the way.
Staley, after the game, pointed to Davis for having a solid game because of his tackling and decision-making. He made seven tackles and defended a pass.
Davis is what former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and the Seattle Seahawks like in cornerbacks: size and speed. He is 6’2 and can keep up with some of the fastest receivers in the NFL. That is why Staley and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill like using him differently.
“One of Mike’s strengths is his size and his length,” Staley said. “He can play well against those bigger players, whether it’s a bigger receiver or a tight end body-type. He does give you that flexibility. As we said after the game, Mike had a quality game last week. He’s played good football for us and we’re going to need that.
“He has a lot of experience and we’re going to have to leverage that the best we can moving forward because an offense like this, it provides you a lot of challenges from a look standpoint.”
This Sunday, the Chargers face the high-powered San Francisco 49ers offense. Staley may use Davis in different ways again on Sunday because the cornerback could keep up with receiver Deebo Samuel, but they may use his size to guard tight end George Kittle and free up safety Derwin James to do other things.
The defensive players believe in him, so if he continues to play as he has in recent weeks, the Chargers defense won’t have to worry about him when they face big-time receivers.
“I think it’s a defense we have the mentality that it is up to us to dictate what the game should be and that we are at the forefront of the game,” Davis said. “That we should be able to do whatever we can in order for us to get the win.”