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Michael Davis still looking to prove himself in Year 8


Michael Davis knows what it's like to be in a situation where he needs to prove himself.

As an undrafted free agent signed by the Chargers in 2017, Davis described his rookie year as starting "from the bottom." He was at the end of the depth chart in training camp, got waived weeks later and joined the team's practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in Week 2.

Seven years later, Davis has established himself as a proven NFL starter with 74 starts in 107 games. He's recorded an interception in each of the last five seasons along with 51 pass breakups since 2020. As one of the nearly two dozen free agents signed by the Washington Commanders this offseason, Davis is the most experienced defensive back on the roster.

That does not mean he feels as if he has earned anything from his new team yet, though. He is ready to prove himself -- again -- both as a leader and productive player for the Burgundy & Gold.

"Nothing is given to me," Davis told Bryan Colbert Jr. on an episode of Free Agency Friday. "Everything has to be earned. So, I'm out here trying to earn my spot again."

Davis said coming to a new team after spending his entire career on the West Coast feels he's joining the league as UDFA again. His resume is a bit fuller than it was back in 2017, though. As a starter for two coaching regimes, Davis recorded 349 tackles -- leading the team's cornerbacks from 2020-22 -- as well as eight interceptions, 69 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

That kind of production does get recognized by some of Davis' new teammates, but that does not guarantee him a starting spot on the depth chart, despite him routinely playing with the first group in OTA practices. The Commanders' secondary underwent some of the most change this offseason with players like Kendall Fuller leaving for the Miami Dolphins, and the players who remain from the previous regime, such as Emmanuel Forbes Jr. and Benjamin St-Juste, are slated to be heavier contributors but still must answer questions about how they fit into the scheme.

Davis, who has played in more games than any cornerback on the Commanders' roster, wants to add some stability to the position group.

"I still gotta prove myself to them," Davis said. "I still gotta prove that I'm still that dog."

The Washington Commanders were back on the field after a week off to continue their OTA practices. Check out the top photos from the afternoon.

Davis must juggle the desire to improve a secondary that was the NFL's worst in 2023 with the responsibility of being the veteran in his group and teaching his younger teammates. That is not a situation that Davis is used to being in himself. Two-time Pro Bowler Casey Hayward was the leader for the Chargers in the first half of Davis' career, and he was followed by Chris Harris Jr., a four-time Pro Bowler who spent two seasons in Los Angeles.

But Davis is excited about being the "old head" in the Commanders' defensive backfield because he can help mold his younger teammates and show them how to have long careers.

"As a young group, you have so much potential," Davis said. "Usually when you work with a bunch of vets, they're already in their own routine. They know what to do already. So, sometimes it's kind of hard to talk to a vet. A young buck, they're eager for information. They're eager to learn."

That's something Davis and his new teammates have in common. While he has played in more NFL games at this point in his career, he still feels like he has more to prove, both to himself and the rest of the league. He has his way of doing things, but he's also willing to learn and try new experiences if they help him succeed.

Davis also gets to pass on some knowledge that he wishes veterans would have given him when he was a young player. His biggest advice: no one has to be perfect.

"It's a game," Davis said. "You still gotta go out there and have fun. You can't be so serious and be so one dimensional. You gotta be able to be free. When you're free, you play better."

Eight years later, Davis is still trying to remind himself of that.

"I gotta be better than the last seven years," Davis said. "I know I've had my spurts here and there. I think, for me, I gotta be more consistent. Consistency is key for everything in life."

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