Chicago Bears repeat history signing Mike Davis as their new RB1

Chicago Bears (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears have high hopes Mike Davis can impact Matt Nagy’s version of the West Coast offense. 15 years ago the Chicago front office made a similar move during a coaching transition.

Former Seattle Seahawks backup running back Mike Davis enters the Chicago Bears locker room as the favorite to replace Jordan Howard. This is Davis’ third team in five seasons after being drafted in the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015. The Bears believe Davis is a better fit for their offense.

The Bears signed Davis early enough during free agency at a $6 million price tag that supports this claim. Not only is the annual salary on par with other starting running back salaries but also more than the $2 million Howard was expected to make in 2019. It is no secret Howard was the only question mark within Matt Nagy’s offense and his declining production only supported the speculation.

Davis has never eclipsed more than 514 rushing yards in a season while Howard’s 3,370 yards is the third-best mark behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley since 2016. Last season, Davis’ 112 rushing attempts were a career high. Davis also finished with a running back success rate of 61 percent, third best in the NFL as a spot starter in Seattle. He chipped in 34 receptions for 214 yards which is almost as good as Howard’s (43 receptions) previous two seasons combined.

Is Ryan Pace simply revamping the position similar to last season’s overhaul of the wide receiver unit? Or is the NFL’s youngest general manager looking at the potential of Davis and low mileage to replace Howard?

The NFL draft is always filled with uncertainty. In 2019, running backs are not considered a strength amongst draft prospects. That is not an indictment on the talent pool but it lacks a generational talent like Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott. There are plenty of mid-round talents that can contribute in Chicago but not at the risk of overdrafting a player.

A Brief History Lesson

In 2001, the Bears drafted Anthony Thomas out of the University of Michigan in the second round. Thomas enjoyed immediate success rushing for 1,183 yards in his first season. He was voted “Offensive Rookie of the Year” for his efforts. Thomas, like Howard, was a fan favorite earning the nickname “A-Train.” He was another homegrown prospect who fits the bill as a hard-nosed running back that could carry the load through the Chicago winters.

During Thomas’ tenure, former head coach Dick Jauron like John Fox operated under the notion that a strong defense could carry an organization. Chicago was built around a power running game to complement a stout defense. The Bears only experienced one winning season while Thomas accumulated 2,928 rushing yards. The organization decided to clean house in 2004 hiring a first-time head coach named Lovie Smith. The Smith regime wasn’t known for its offense but it did kick start an era of good football in Chicago.

The Transition

In 2004, the Bears signed Thomas Jones, an uninspiring former first-round pick out of the University of Virginia. Jones hadn’t seized a full-time role yet but showcased plenty of upside. He never exceeded 630 rushing yards nor did he eclipse 137 carries. He was considered to be more versatile than incumbent starter Anthony Thomas.

In his first season, Jones had a career year carrying 240 times for 948 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 56 receptions. He not only replaced Anthony Thomas but made him an afterthought. He would gain 3,493 rushing yards in his three years in Chicago. He also added 118 receptions during that span.

However, in 2005, the Bears would overdraft running back Cedric Benson with the fourth pick in the draft. He was a hold-out that season and never earned the respect of his locker room. He never showcased enough to unseat Thomas Jones. Jones remained the lead back until he departed for the Jets in 2007. He would gain another 3,833 yards in New York.

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In today’s NFL, the running back position has been devalued but every season diamonds are found lying in the rough. A change of scenery could be exactly what Mike Davis needs to unveil his inner Thomas Jones. History “Bears” repeating…

Until then, BEAR DOWN! JT out.