MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Mike Davis finished his work as Falcons running back on Wednesday afternoon and quickly donned another hat. He joined the team's press core, creeping up from the back in time to ask quarterback Matt Ryan a question.
"I just want to know," Davis said, "how are you working on your speed?"
This was certainty a reference to an earlier Ryan press conference where he discussed how he's working to bring #MattyWheels out more often.
Ryan's could sense the ribbing and fired back with a zinger.
"Every day I watch our running backs, how they condition and how they run," he said. "I watch their technique. I watch Mike Davis and what he does, then I try and do the opposite."
- Bair: Don't let expectations define Kyle Pitts' rookie season
- Bair Mail: Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage vs. Miami corners, Kyle Pitts and dismissing preseason paranoia
- Matt Ryan enjoys exchange with Brian Flores, Dolphins defense during joint practice
- Practice report: Calvin Ridley dominant vs. talented Dolphins secondary
He knows Davis does his job pretty darn well. We've seen that in bursts during training camp, though it's tough to get a complete progress report on him and the Falcons running game without live tackling.
Live tackling isn't always good for feature backs. They take enough punishment as it is when games count. They don't need any more in ultimately irrelevant contests.
That's why this week's joint practices against the Miami Dolphins are valuable to Davis and the Falcons run game. Intensity cranks up in these situations, especially against a defensive scheme they don't know well, so there's more to glean from these sessions than a standard camp practice.
"I thought it went well," Davis said. "It was nice to practice this way, especially for the guys who haven't played in the preseason.
"...It felt good, honestly, whether the gain was zero or 20, to go against somebody else. Overall, I think our line did a pretty good job."
They won't eliminate head coach Arthur Smith's desire to see Davis work in a preseason game. It's uncertain if Saturday's content against the Dolphins is he time to get that work in. The Falcons are a bit off schedule when it comes to evaluating backs, considering how much the rushing operation struggled last week against the Tennessee Titans.
"We've got to execute better, but I really didn't think that was a fair assessment of the running backs with Caleb Huntley], or Hawk [Javian Hawkins] or [D'Onta] Foreman,” [Smith said earlier this week. "We just didn't get enough carries, I mean we were in a lot of second-and-longs, kind of forced a couple runs just to get a couple in there. We've got to do a better job of staying on track so we can get an evaluation of him running. And then obviously third down will be critical in the pass game, protection wise and what they can do free releasing from the backfield."
That creates some uncertainty about who will get carries against Miami.
"We need to see Mike run in the preseason, same with CP [Cordarrelle Patterson] and with some of those vets," Smith said. "If we feel good about them, fair is fair. We're not going to be able to get all six running backs 10-plus carries. That's kind of the decision, see how this week goes and evaluate how the other guys are doing, alright who needs to get carries Saturday night?"
Davis wouldn't specify how much work he needs to prep for the regular season. He did say he's ready whenever.
"Is there a number in my head? No," Davis said. "Going into Year 7, I can't tell you anything specific. All I know is that I'm prepared for whatever coaches ask me to do."
The Atlanta Falcons are in Miami participating in joint practices with the Dolphins leading up to the second preseason game on Saturday.