INDIANAPOLIS– The Colts have taken a bold step in bolstering their secondary with the acquisition of fourth-year pro Vontae Davis from the Miami Dolphins.
Davis, 5-11, 205, is entering his fourth NFL season. He has started 36 of 44 games at cornerback with Miami, totaling 142 tackles, 126 solo, 32 passes defensed and nine interceptions, including one for a touchdown.
From Illinois, Davis was the 25th player selected overall in the 2009 draft.
Last season, Davis led Miami with four interceptions and nine passes defensed, while finishing the year with 43 tackles, 39 solo. His four interceptions were tied-for-fifth in the AFC.
Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson has been building the roster aggressively since his January arrival, and the secondary has received a great deal of attention with veteran acquisitions. Grigson feels the addition of Davis is big for the club.
"Bottom line with this move today is we got better as a football team," said Grigson. "That is always the goal each day for this organization. From the first time he stepped on the field at Illinois as a freshman or in the National Football League as a rookie, you knew Vontae was a special talent.
"Now he has a chance under Coach Pagano and this coaching staff to reach not only his potential as a football player, but as a person as well. That is our collective goal moving forward."
In 2009, Davis led Miami with four interceptions, making him the first club rookie to lead the team in interceptions in 20 years. He was the first Dolphins rookie cornerback to lead the team since 1969. That year, he finished with a career-high 44 solo tackles and 11 passes defensed.
Davis is eager to join his new team.
"I'm excited for a fresh start and I'm happy to be a Colt," said Davis. "Indianapolis has a great tradition and I'm excited to play for a great franchise. I want to thank the Dolphins for their support and I'm grateful they drafted me, but I'm happy to be a Colt now."
Pagano is a defensive specialist who played strong safety in college and has tutored the secondary in all three NFL posts prior to joining Indianapolis.
"As we move forward, there's no sleeping around here, obviously," said Pagano. "To get a guy of his caliber, playing the position that he plays (is important). Everything we try to do on a daily basis is done with two things in mind – the team and winning. Vontae brings a great skill set. He's a great cover man. He's big. He's physical, and he can run.
"Just throwing him in the mix, we feel like we're getting an outstanding player. He's proven himself and played at a high level in the league. He'll make us better moving forward."
With one preseason game remaining and it being against Cincinnati on Thursday, Pagano does not feel there is undue challenge in getting Davis acclimated to the system. Whether or not Davis plays this week hinges on a few factors.
"The great thing about it was Mike Nolan was there (Miami) a year ago (as defensive coordinator). We have a similar system with what we're running, coming from Baltimore and San Francisco and (Colts Defensive Coordinator) Greg Manusky being with Mike (with the 49ers). I think he's (Davis) going to come in here and find that from a scheme standpoint, a coverage standpoint and terminology, there will be a lot of carryover. We got lucky in that regard also. We have great coaches…We'll get him up to speed.
"We'll have to wait and see (if he can play on Thursday). If we are able to get him up here and get him out here on the practice field in a timely fashion and feel good about (him) in a knowledge standpoint of him going out and being able to function without hurting himself or our team, we'll try to get him involved in the game. We're not going to risk pushing this thing too fast if he's not ready."
Pagano scouted Davis in college and is familiar with his ability. It is a matter of helping Davis get situated for success.
"You see signs and there are flashes (of his ability)," said Pagano. "I haven't watched every snap that he's played, but I know he's been productive. I know what he was in college. I evaluated him coming out of Illinois a couple of years back. He was a great talent there. We're going to do our very best to see that Vontae succeeds both on and off the field, that he reaches his potential."
Davis was a three-year starter at Illinois. He opened 34-of-36 games and totaled 206 tackles, 139 solo, 22 passes defensed, seven interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In his final season, Davis was named a consensus All-Big Ten Conference first-team selection with a career-high 78 tackles, 53 solo, and tying for second in the conference with three forced fumbles. In 2007, he started 12 games and was the only sophomore semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. As a freshman, Davis started 11 outings, was named the team's Rookie-of-the-Year and earned multiple All-America honors.