Michael Davis hopes to say ‘hola’ to starting cornerback role
It was, for some Chargers observers, the most stunning moment of the 2019 draft.
For defensive tackle Justin Jones, it was confirmation that what he had heard about teammate Michael Davis was indeed true.
“I knew Mike spoke some kind of other language,” Jones said. “I did not know it was Spanish.”
When the Chargers’ pick in the fourth round arrived in April, the television coverage cut to Mexico City, where Davis, a cornerback entering his third season, was standing with his family.
Given his cue, Davis announced the team’s selection of linebacker Drue Tranquill in Spanish.
“Bienvenido a L.A.,” he said.
“A lot of people on the team had no idea,” Davis said Sunday. “Most of the [defensive backs] knew I speak Spanish, but they didn’t know I could speak it that fluently.”
When he rejoined his teammates in the Chargers’ offseason program, several of them said they thought he was only boasting about being bilingual and had doubted his claim.
With the team set to play Kansas City in Mexico City on Nov. 18, Davis’ ability to communicate in Spanish will be more popular than ever among the Chargers.
Bob Fouts, who has died at 97, was a legendary Bay Area broadcaster who influenced son Dan to take up the profession after his career as an NFL quarterback.
“He’s gonna be our tour guide, for sure,” Jones said. “ ‘You tell me what’s on the menu, I’m going to order from there and then you tell them what I want.’ That’s how we’re gonna do things.”
Davis’ mother is Mexican and his father is African American. His mom, Ana Martinez, taught him Spanish from as far back as he can recall.
As a young child, he would spend months at a time in Mexico. Later on, he would visit relatives there every Christmas.
“People see the color of my skin and think I’m just an African American,” said Davis, who, on his dad’s side, also has some Native American. “They don’t expect Spanish to start coming out.”
The Chargers’ visit in November will give Davis an opportunity to see his grandparents, who live about 90 minutes outside Mexico City. He described himself as being “super fired up” when he found out about the trip.
Even better, there’s a chance Davis could be a major contributor by that point. He is battling Trevor Williams for a starting cornerback job on a defense that has an opportunity to be quite stout.
“He has always had the speed, but I think his technique is catching up to his speed,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of Davis, who made the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. “He’s starting to do it and having success with it, so it breeds confidence with him.”
Davis took over midway through last season after Williams returned from an injury and struggled. He started nine games and had 43 tackles.
What he failed to do, and still hasn’t done since his senior season at Brigham Young, was intercept a pass. He did, however, drop four balls that were within his grasp.
“Interceptions are big money,” Davis said. “It’s key for a defense to have interceptions. Interceptions can define a player. Getting the ball out, scoring, that’s what we preach. I do want to get my interceptions back.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers said they’re fans of the sessions, which will allow many starters to play less in the preseason.
The Chargers were middle of the road with 13 interceptions and 20 takeaways in 2018. They had a turnover differential of only one, which tied for 15th out of 32 teams.
Creating more turnovers was a theme throughout the offseason program and continues to be a theme, with the first exhibition game coming Thursday in Arizona.
Davis said he thinks about those four missed pickoffs “everyday” and envisions himself intercepting a pass as soon as he wakes up each morning.
“The ball’s money,” he said. “You have to grab the money.”
After two joint practices with the Rams, the Chargers went through a light workout Sunday.
Receivers Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, who were inactive Saturday, did not participate.
Tight end Virgil Green and safety Jaylen Watkins returned to practice after each sat out several days.
Rookie defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, a first-round pick, took part in team drills for the first time. He’s coming off shoulder surgery.
If the Chargers and Rams share the same field again this season, it will be quite an L.A. story since that can only happen in the Super Bowl. The teams met in the regular season last year, with the Rams winning 35-23 at the Coliseum.
“By the time we’d get to when we’d play these guys [again], I think we both would get to know each other pretty well,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s any secrets.”
Among the pieces the Rams added in the offseason is safety Eric Weddle, a former Charger and one of Rivers’ closer friends.
“There’s not much you can add to that group, but I think he can be a real nice piece added, just what he brings from a knowledge standpoint,” Rivers said. “The way he communicates on the back end is pretty special.”
After practice, Chargers owner Dean Spanos presented Anaheim Magnolia High’s football team with a donation to help buy equipment lost in a recent fire. … The Chargers will not work on the field Monday.
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