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2013 POSITIONAL SERIES: DEFENSIVE BACKS

Posted Apr 2, 2013

Vontae Davis did not start training camp with the Colts, but he ended it with the club and started at both corner positions. Davis thrived on the right side as the season ended, and he is ready for year two with Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – The cornerback positions for the Colts were definitely areas of activity and concern in 2012.

 

Jerraud Powers was coming off a third straight year with injuries and the left side opposite him was manned by three different starters in 2011, none of whom made it past training camp.

 

After the draft, Ryan Grigson tried stocking the position with a series of seven acquisitions via free agency, trades and waiver claims. 

 

It was a trade Grigson made on August 26 that yielded the answer – Vontae Davis.

 

Grigson landed Davis, 24, a 36-game starter who played in 44 games for Miami after being a first-round pick in 2009. 

 

Getting acclimated on and off the field was a challenge made tougher at the outset of the season, and Davis started the opener on the left side just days later. 

 

Battling ankle and knee injuries, Davis ultimately split 10 starts on both corners, settling in on the right side when Powers had a season-ending toe injury.

 

A talented, youthful player, Davis felt his game solidified as the season unfolded.

 

“I thought it came on pretty well.  I started feeling more comfortable around the guys,” said Davis.  “Mainly, everything started feeling more like home.  To get traded and go to a different atmosphere was kind of different for me.  It was the first (time it had happened to me), and I had to get comfortable.  I was able to get more used to the settings as the season went on.”

 

Getting Davis for a second-round choice was a stroke by Grigson that Chuck Pagano trumpets.

 

“There is no way, not this in draft coming up or any prior drafts, where you will able to get somebody of Vontae’s talent in the second round,” said Pagano.  “To get a corner who has his play-making ability, his size, the way he’ll support the run, play the pass and play the ball down the field, the way he competes, you just can’t do it.  You have to draft him in the first round. That’s why Miami took him in the first round. 

 

“For us to get Vontae for what we got him for, it’s a steal.  He’s 24 years young.  He’s just a baby.  It’s all in front of Vontae.  He’s going to get better and better.  He’s a great talent.  He’s a pure cover corner.  For what we ask our corners to do, Vontae’s the guy you want.”

 

A December 9 game with Tennessee showed in particular what excites Pagano.

 

Davis sacked Jake Locker at the Colts’ 10-yard line late in the first half to force a field goal that kept the Colts within 20-7 while playing poorly.  Davis leveled Chris Johnson for a five-yard loss at the club’s 10-yard line again early in the fourth quarter, then defensed a pass two plays later to force another field goal that kept Indianapolis within 23-21.  The second stop set up a 53-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal for the club’s sixth comeback victory.

“As long as the team was doing well and was winning games, I felt the good plays were going to happen,” said Davis.  “I feel I have the ability to make the big plays, but our main focus is the team and how we can reach the goals we want to reach.  When the team is doing well and we’re doing what Coach Pagano wants, my play will be fine.  It’s a process.”

 

Davis began thriving in an area where communication is essential.  He did so by listening to voices around him.

 

“The coaches took care of me.  Coach Pagano always kept in touch with me (while he was away) and treated me really well,” said Davis.  “The coaches, you can see they want the best for you.  They want you to succeed to the best of your ability.

 

“I feel like the sky is the limit.  Being around Coach Pagano, he’s been in the league a long time.  I’m looking forward to working with him even more.  I can work in the off-season and in training camp, and I’m looking forward to picking his brain.  I’m only going to get better as time goes.”

 

Davis speaks more with actions than by words, much like Antoine Bethea, whom Davis views as the leader.

 

“I’ll leave leadership to Antoine Bethea.  He’s the leader in the secondary,” said Davis.  “We all look up to him, and he keeps everyone together in the secondary.  I’ll just try, like him, to lead by example.

 

“I expect to be a role model for the younger guys.  I want to pick up where I left off last year as far as working hard in practice and buying into the system, then going out on the field and letting my play speak for itself.” 

 

Davis feels he is entering his prime and that 2013 will provide a greater chance to flourish in his new home.

 

“I think I will really benefit from last season, and I look forward to starting here now with a full season to prepare,” said Davis.  “Right now, I’m taking care of my body, getting healthy and getting in the best shape I’ve been.  I’m looking forward to the year. 

 

“We need to stay humble as a young team.  We need to work hard in practice and listen to the coaches.  Like I said, they want the best for you, and I look forward to preparing for the season.

I felt I fit in well.  It was a good change.  I love Indy.”

 

Bethea was the only 16-game starter in the secondary last season.  It was his fifth such season, and Bethea, who surpassed 800 career tackles, has missed but five games in his career.

 

Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn started four and 11 times, respectively, and teamed to have three of the club’s four scoring interception returns.  Vaughn’s against Tennessee helped bring the club back from a 13-point second-half deficit.  Butler’s scoring return helped subdue Jacksonville, a road game where he had three individual takeaways.  His other scoring return at Kansas City provided the club with an early margin in a late comeback victory.

 

Joe Lefeged started the final four games for Zbikowski and developed into the club’s top special teams performer.  Josh Gordy arrived via a trade in camp as did Davis, and he started one of 15 appearances.  He, Davis and Vaughn arrived via that route last year.

 

Sergio Brown was a 16-game performer primarily on special teams.  Brown ranked second to Lefeged (16) with 10 tackles.  Delano Howell had five appearances with Indianapolis after starting the season with Buffalo.  Marshay Green played in one outing at mid-season, and he will be joined by Teddy Williams and Larry Asante this year with a chance to make the club.

 

Greg Toler, 6-0, 192, joined the Colts as an unrestricted free agent from Arizona, where he opened 15-of-38 games after being a fourth-round pick in 2009 (131st overall).  He has tallied 128 career tackles, 118 solo, 19 passes defensed, five interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, and 1.0 sack.  Last year, Toler started two-of-11 outings and had 27 tackles, 26 solo, eight passes defensed and two interceptions, including a career-long 102-yard return for a touchdown. 

 

LaRon Landry, 6-0, 220, joined the Colts as an unrestricted free agent from the New York Jets.

Landry has started 79-of-80 career games with Washington (2007-11) and the Jets (2012) and holds career totals of 534 tackles, 395 solo, 39 passes defensed, six interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries.  He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2012 with 113 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.  He was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft and was an NFL All-Rookie performer.

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