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Falcons film review: RB Mike Davis and his fit in Arthur Smith’s offense

The Falcons added former Panthers RB Mike Davis in free agency to be the presumptive starter. We take a deep dive into Davis’ film to analyze his strengths, weaknesses, and fit in Arthur Smith’s offense in Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Falcons have been busy over the first few weeks of the 2021 NFL league year. Atlanta has been clearing cap space in creative ways, including restructures and negotiating pay cuts with several players who were expected to be cut. With that newfound cap space, the team was able to sign several affordable veteran free agents to help fill out the numerous holes on the roster.

Now that we have actual free agent signings to discuss, I’ll be conducting a new video series evaluating the film of some of the most potentially impactful veteran additions. We’ll kick things off with an in-depth look at former Panthers running back Mike Davis, who joined the Falcons on a 2-year, $5.5M deal. Davis spent the majority of his career as a backup and change-of-pace back, but finally got an opportunity to start in 2020 after Christian McCaffrey went down with injury.

Now in Atlanta in a fairly-depleted RB corps, Davis immediately becomes the presumptive starter. What are Davis’ strengths and weaknesses as a running back, and how does he fit into Arthur Smith’s scheme? I break down the tape from Carolina’s Week 5 game against the Falcons in the video below.

I promise this content actually makes sense to watch in video format—it is a live film review—and I encourage you to watch on YouTube. However, here’s a quick summary of my thoughts on Davis from the film:

RB Mike Davis


  • Excellent contact balance, rarely goes down on first contact and keeps his feet churning for extra yards
  • Good vision and decisiveness—will follow blocks well and get what’s there
  • Quality receiving ability with soft hands and good instincts after the catch
  • Cuts are quick and clean, surprising agility for a back of his stature
  • Build is ideal for the position—5’9, 225


  • Long speed is below average
  • Not a dynamic runner—won’t break off massive gains or long TDs with regularity
  • Can’t create much on his own and needs competent blocking in front of him

Overall, I like Davis’ fit in this scheme and think he’ll be an upgrade over what Todd Gurley brought in 2020. His lack of dynamic ability makes it likely that the Falcons still look to add a complementary, higher-ceiling runner in the 2021 NFL Draft—someone like Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell would be ideal. However, much depends on the ability of Arthur Smith to fix the run blocking and help the team maximize opportunities. Davis is perfectly capable of carrying the load and being productive, but he won’t be able to do much if there aren’t significant improvements up front.

I hope you enjoy our new free agent film review series! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future content, feel free to leave them below.