Fast forward to a year later and with Trevor Williams dealing with a nagging knee issue, and Davis has become the newest member of the self-proclaimed “Jack Boys,” starting opposite Pro Bowler Casey Hayward.
“He just needed reps,” Lynn said. “He has the size, the speed and he’s playing more physical. I like what I’m seeing from Michael right now.”
Teams have targeted the inexperienced Davis, but he has held up. Davis has recorded 23 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in three starts this season. He also has four tackles on special teams.
At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Davis caught the eyes of Chargers’ scouts by running an impressive 4.34-second, 40-yard time at his pro day last year.
With his size and that type of speed, the former receiver showed that he had the physical tools needed to thrive in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system as a press corner.
But early on things did not go well. Davis gave up five receptions on go routes for 144 receiving yards in a preseason game last year against the Seattle Seahawks.
“He would try to tackle, but I think that’s what held him back from being a guy that we felt like could get on the field consistently,” Bradley said. “To his credit, I think he identified that was his weakness and really attacked it.”
Davis played in just 35 defensive snaps during his rookie season. He did earn a regular role on special teams, finishing third on the team with 15 tackles on special teams last year.
“My rookie year I struggled,” Davis said. “I was under a lot of stress and I didn’t have a lot of confidence. But then coming out this year with this being my second year, I have a lot more confidence now.”
Davis developed more swagger in his game by getting stronger, allowing him to play more physical in the back end defensively. Davis attacked his lack of physicality by taking a wrestling class twice a week during the offseason to improve his ability to play with better leverage.
“It helps with tackling, when I need to get close with a low center of gravity,” Davis told the Orange County Register.
Chargers defensive backs coach Ron Milus, who took on Davis as a project, has noticed the difference — although he wasn’t aware of his wrestling classes.
“I think someone may have said that too me, but it really never came up in our room,” Milus laughed, when asked about Davis wrestling. “All I know is he’s doing a much better job on that part of the game.”
Milus said he first noticed Davis in a joint scrimmage with the Los Angeles Rams last year during training camp, when the BYU product made a handful of plays in coverage.
“From that point on he’s just kind of gotten better and better,” Milus said. “He didn’t get a lot of snaps last year on the defensive side, but he’s taking advantage of what he’s getting now.
“I think if you were looking to draw up a corner for this level, you would probably look at Michael’s dimensions and say, ‘You know what, that’s probably what we’re looking for. The size, the speed and the ability to catch up — that’s what he brings to the table. And he’s gotten to be a pretty dependable tackler, too. So that part he’s really improved on.”
Milus said Davis is playing with more confidence due to an improved knowledge of defense. Now, Davis has to prove over the long haul that he has the mental toughness and playmaking skills to stick as a full-time starter.
“If you don’t have confidence you can’t play defense — you can’t play any position to be honest,” Davis said. “So just being out there with the boys I’m able to boost my confidence. And when I’m making plays in practice, I’m obviously able to do that on game days as well.”