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Don’t expect Mike Davis to cure all that ails the Seahawks run game

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
Mike Davis carries the ball after catching a pass in the preseason.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Mike Davis promoted to the 53-man roster in advance of the Seattle Seahawks Monday night matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, many fans are excited to see if Davis can provide a spark to the running game. Other fans are convinced that the production he flashed and the 4.4 yards per carry Davis posted in the preseason was largely the result of playing against guys not good enough to make the final roster for their team.

In the preseason Davis posted 106 yards on 24 carries, good for the 4.4 yards per carry as mentioned. On a per game basis, his stats break down as follows:

Mike Davis 2017 preseason game log (rushing)

Game Opponent Carries Yards Yards per Carry
Game Opponent Carries Yards Yards per Carry
1 Chargers 8 33 4.1
2 Vikings 6 37 6.2
3 Chiefs 6 11 1.8
4 Raiders 4 25 6.3

In order to take a deeper look at the level of competition Davis was playing against when he recorded the stats he did, I charted each of his 24 carries in the preseason for the opponent, the game situation (quarter and time on clock), the yardage gained on the play and the tackler(s). Each of the four tables below represents the stats Davis accumulated in the preseason games, so going in order the first is the game against the Chargers:

Mike Davis - log of carries versus Chargers

Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
1 3 5:32 4 J. Perry Waived/Injured C. Reid Waived
2 3 4:53 5 R. Carrethers Waived J. Onwualu OLB4
3 3 4:10 3 R Evans Waived - -
4 4 12:01 0 I. Rochell Practice Squad K. Eulls Waived/Injured
5 4 9:32 2 R Carrethers Waived N. Harris IR-NYG
6 4 5:37 0 R. Reid Waived - -
7 4 5:01 10 D. McCoil SS2 for SFO R. Carrethers Waived
8 4 4:15 9 D. McCoil SS2 for SFO I. Rochell Practice Squad

Looking at the status of the players who tackled Davis on his eight rushing attempts, the majority of them were waived at the end of the preseason, only one remains on the Chargers 53-man roster and one is a backup safety for the San Francisco 49ers, one of the worst teams in the entire NFL. This leads me to the conclusion that during the first week of preseason, the stats Davis collected did indeed come while playing against third and fourth string defensive players.

The next week the Seahawks took on the Minnesota Vikings, and here is the data from that game:

Mike Davis - log of carries versus Vikings

Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
9 2 2:40 0 S. Weatherly RDE2 E. Wilson SLB2
10 3 9:44 2 I. Odenigbo Waived B. Gedeon WLB1
11 3 9:11 38 J. Kearse SS2 E. Robinson Waived
12 3 8:39 -4 A. Harris FS2 - -
13 3 2:32 4 T. Bower RDE3 - -
14 4 5:16 -3 J. Johnson DT2 - -

Charting the plays on which Davis carried the ball against the Vikings and the defensive players who made the tackles, the majority of the defensive players involved in making the tackle were second and third string defenders. There was one starter and a couple of third or fourth string players who also played, but on the whole the Seahawks appear to have faced off against second and third string players during the game against the Vikings. Davis also had his longest run of the preseason, 38 yards, in the game against the Vikings and what level of defense that came against is evaluated below.

In week three Seattle hosted the Kansas City Chiefs, whose defense held Davis to his least productive performance of the preseason:

Mike Davis - log of carries versus Chiefs

Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
15 2 7:07 0 F. Zombo LOLB2 - -
16 2 6:23 9 D. Sorenson SS1 B. Logan NT1
17 2 5:13 0 F. Zombo LOLB2 - -
18 3 8:48 0 J. Jenkins RDE2 C. Jones LDE1
19 3 6:53 2 C. Thomas Waived J. Mauga Waived
20 3 6:22 0 D. King DE2 for TEN - -

The charting of the tacklers in the Chiefs game shows immediately the difference in the level of competition Davis faced in that game. The overwhelming majority of players who tackled Davis in the matchup are currently starters or second string players that remain on the Chiefs active roster. Thus, it appears as though Davis was playing against the first and second string defensive players of the Chiefs in this game.

With that in mind, it is therefore not all that surprising that not only was this the worst game for Davis in the preseason. Further, his 1.8 yards per carry against the Chiefs is not that far off from his career average of 2.0 yards per carry from his time with the 49ers.

Lastly, in the preseason finale the Hawks traveled to Oakland to take on the Raiders where Davis put up the following:

Mike Davis - log of carries versus Raiders

Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
Rush Attempt Quarter Time Yards Tackler 1 Tackler 1 Status Tackler 2 Tackler 2 Status
21 2 1:19 4 C. Humes Waived - -
22 3 8:13 14 M. McWilson Waived - -
23 3 7:44 5 X. Woodson-Luster Waived L. Lewis Waived
24 3 7:05 2 N. Morrow WLB2 B. Borders Waived

In this game we see that only one of the six players involved in tackling Davis on his four rushing attempts survived the roster cut to 53 which took place less than 48 hours after the contest. Therefore, I do not believe it a stretch to state that in this game Davis was rushing against third and fourth string defenders.

Coming back to the longest rush Davis recorded in the preseason, the 38-yard scamper against the Vikings, I wanted to know if this came against starters or backups. For those who have forgotten the run, this is what it looked like

I charted the eleven Vikings defenders on the field for the play, and they, along with their roster status, are as follows:

Minnesota Vikings defensive players on field for 38 yard Davis run

Number Position Player Status
Number Position Player Status
64 DE T. Bower RDE3
90 DT W. Sutton Waived
94 DT J. Johnson DT2
60 DE I. Odenigbo Waived
59 LB E. Lamur WLB2
51 LB E. Robinson Waived
42 LB B. Gedeon WLB1
24 CB Ja. Price Waived
38 CB H. Richardson Waived
27 SS J. Kearse SS2
41 FS A. Harris FS2

So of the eleven defensive players on the field for that play, only one is currently a starter. Four of those players are currently backups and a fifth is a third stringer. The other five players on the field for that run were all cut at the end of the preseason. Thus, I am comfortable putting forth the idea that the fact that the majority of the Vikings defensive players on that play were not starters played a not insignificant role in the success of that play.

Therefore, my conclusion is that much of the production Davis generated in the preseason likely came as a direct result of the level of competition he was facing. I’m not saying he’s bad or that he doesn’t have the potential to provide a spark to the run game. But I’m not going to hold my breath expecting Davis to be a savior for the run game.

When the run game improves it will come as a result of a combination of better blocking and the running backs hitting their holes properly.