Last year, the Giants, in need of a quality starting cornerback, passed on the big names on the market like Byron Jones (who went to the Dolphins) in favor of then-Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry, a lesser-known name, yet one who had just as good of a resume and who came in at a more reasonable price.
This year, with the Giants needing veteran depth at running back behind a still recovering Saquon Barkley, might they go back to that well?
Anything is possible, and it’s certainly fair to say that Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis (who, unlike Bradberry, was not scouted or drafted by Giants general manager Dave Gettleman) could be a potential prospect that lands on the Giants free agent radar if Carolina does not retain him.
Who is Mike Davis?
Davis, a fourth-round draft pick out of South Carolina in 2015 by the 49ers, played two seasons in San Francisco before moving on to the Seahawks for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. E made a quick stop with the Bears in 2019 but then found his way to the Panthers later that season when the Bears released him in early November.
Much like Wayne Gallman, Davis waited for his opportunity to shine. According to All Panthers lead writer Schuyler Callihan, Davis stepped up in a big way when McCaffery dealt with injury issues (almost similar to how Wayne Gallman stepped up for the Giants when Saquon Barkley went down with his season-ending ACL injury in Week 2).
In 15 games with 12 starts, the 28-year-old Davis recorded 642 yards on 165 carries (3.9 yards/carry) with six touchdowns, all career highs. He also posted some career highs as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 59 passes for 373 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Why Consider Davis Over Retaining Gallman?
As previously noted, both Davis and Gallman performed exceptionally well instead of the injured starters in front of them on the depth chart. But Davis appears to be a little more versatile than Gallman, particularly in the passing game, where he has the quick twitch to make defenders miss.
Presumably, the Giants, who weren’t overly creative with using the running backs out of the backfield last year, will be looking to do that this year with a healthy Barkly in the fold. But when Barkley comes off the field, the idea is that whoever comes in to relieve him should be able to execute the playbook similarly as Barkley.
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Last season, the Panthers lined Davis up all over the formation, splitting him wide on 5.8% of snaps and putting him in the slot on 7.2%. While the Giants did the same with Gallman, they didn’t do so as much, and more often than not, they did so with Gallman as a decoy rather than as a legitimate pass target option, as Davis was.
Davis also averaged 7.3 yards per catch and 1.23 yards per route run, coming up with three contested catches. And as a runner, while his 2.96 yards after contact average wasn’t near Gallman’s 3.63 average, Davis forced 43 missed tackles after a rush versus Gallman’s 27.
To summarize, Davis appears to be a little bit more of an all-around option than Gallman.
Just as Gallman is believed to be looking to land with a team in which he can be more of an equal partner rather than a spot reliever behind a generational talent, Callihan thinks that the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Davis will likely want to parlay his success in having a more significant role with another team.
But Callihan also has questions regarding the feasibility of Davis being a fit for that role, noting, “Although he flourished in his role in 2020, can he do the same when he's not getting as many touches and isn't able to get himself into a rhythm early in the game? That's really the only question mark that I would have on him in terms of his ability to be a solid No. 2 back.”
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