INDIANAPOLIS — After using their top free agency move last offseason on a cornerback coming off a career year, adding his talents to the two solid veterans already occupying the position, the Indianapolis Colts felt pretty good about the state of the position heading into training camp.
But, as the Colts — and their 31 other counterparts across the league — know, that feeling can turn pretty sour, and quickly, due to a variety of factors; the most prevalent of which is the injury bug, which certainly struck the Indy secondary, particularly its corners, in 2016.
Patrick Robinson, who was signed to a reported three-year, $12 million free agency deal after a productive season with the San Diego Chargers, first suffered a concussion early on. Then it was hip and knee issues that bothered him throughout the season. Finally, a groin injury suffered Week 12 would be all she wrote for Robinson after he played in just seven games with six starts.
Then, when No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis and No. 3 cornerback Darius Butler went down with injuries early in the going, the team brought in veteran corner Antonio Cromartie to try to add any sort of stability to the position. He would last the first four weeks of the season before being released.
The good news for the Colts at the cornerback position in 2016, however, was that the team was able to see what it had in two somewhat-journeymen four-year veterans in Darryl Morris and Rashaan Melvin, who would end up starting a combined 11 games and were able to add a bit of stability to the position once Davis and Butler (who eventually made a move to safety) returned.
Here's a review of the play of the Colts' cornerbacks in 2016:Vontae
Vontae Davis had already established himself as one of the league's top shutdown corners entering the 2016 season, but perhaps this past season showed just how tough he is, as well.
During training camp, he suffered a nasty ankle sprain, one that caused the typically-durable Davis to miss the first two games of the season. Even when he returned to the lineup, it took a while for him to really get back into midseason form.
But by Week 6, it looked as if the old Davis was back. He totaled five tackles, two passes defensed and notched his first interception of the season against the Houston Texans' Brock Osweiler. He would finish the season with 41 total tackles, a team-best 10 passes defensed and that one pick.P-Rob
Various injuries just never gave Colts fans the chance to see the true Patrick Robinson in action in his first season with the team in 2016.
He was a stud with the Chargers in 2015, as he simply just did not allow big plays against him. But in 2016, he would never play more than three games in a row before ultimately being placed on IR. He finished his first season in Indy with 26 tackles, five passes defensed and one forced fumble.
With a full offseason available to heal up, the Colts are hoping Robinson can come back better than ever in 2017.D-Butz
Darius Butler also battled various injuries throughout the 2016 season. During the Colts' Week 2 game against the Denver Broncos, he intercepted a Trevor Siemian pass in the second quarter and had nothing but green grass in front of him when he stumbled to the ground with a hamstring injury.
He came back three weeks later against the Chicago Bears just in time to suffer a fractured finger that required surgery.
That surgery, however, wouldn't keep Butler off the field. He returned the next week against the Houston Texans with a club on his hand, but you wouldn't have known it by the way he was flying around the field and making plays.
With Clayton Geathers in and out of the lineup later in the season, Butler then embraced a role at the safety position, a move that has been known to extend the careers of many cornerbacks in the past.
In all, at both the cornerback and safety positions, despite being nicked up throughout the year, Butler finished with a strong 2016 campaign: 34 tackles, two quarterback hits, a team-best three interceptions, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Butler, 30, is heading into the offseason as an impending unrestricted free agent.Other notes
While the Antonio Cromartie experiment didn't quite work out, the team couldn't help but be pleased with the play of Darryl Morris and Rashaan Melvin in 2016.
Signed off the street after moving around from team to team throughout their four-year NFL careers, both Morris and Melvin provided some stability and depth at the cornerback position for defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.
Melvin, a Northern Illinois product, played in 15 games with nine starts, finishing fifth on the team with 58 tackles (one for a loss), while also finishing tied for second on the team with seven passes defensed and forcing two fumbles. Morris, meanwhile, played in 12 total games with two starts, totaling 34 tackles, one interception, six passes defensed and two quarterback hits.
The Colts also got late-season contributions from former Texan Charles James II and 2016 undrafted rookies Christopher Milton and Frankie Williams.Number to remember
4: The number of consecutive season in which Vontae Davis has now totaled at least 10 passes defensed, a figure that is tied for the most in the NFL over that span.
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