INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano has challenged his top returning defender.
Vontae Davis has challenged himself.
The Colts need Davis, the longest tenured defender returning in 2017, to play at the level we saw back in 2014.
That year, as the Colts marched to the AFC Championship, Davis was unquestionably one of the top corners in the NFL.
In 2014, Davis had just signed a new four-year contract with the Colts.
Now entering the final season of that original four-year deal, Davis' maturation through a handful of seasons in Indianapolis can be heard.
"I'm looking to have a big year myself," Davis says. "I think I'm the leader of that (secondary) and if I'm not playing well, I don't think anybody is going to play well. I've got to play my best ball all the time. That's the approach I'm taking.
"I'm raising the standard not only for the group, but for myself."
The Colts need peak Davis in several ways this season.
After watching seven defenders age 29 or older exit the door this offseason, Davis has gone from the rather quiet starting cornerback, to a player entrusted with more leadership responsibilities.
Davis jokes that he's a "young spirit" but his NFL experience will undoubtedly have the newcomers in the secondary looking up to him.
"I just want to make sure I'm doing all the right things because those guys, they're going to be watching me all the time," Davis says of the Colts drafting three new defensive backs. "I want to set a great example and answer questions for those guys. Be somebody they can lean on.
"Mike Adams was that guy. He was the older guy of the group. Now it's me and Darius Butler, so we have to be the guys that keep the room together and be leaders and role models."
Since Davis arrived in Indianapolis via trade in 2012, he's lined up opposite a plethora of different cornerbacks.
The Colts drafted Quincy Wilson in the 2017 Draft, possibly adding to the number of corners playing with Davis.
But it's not about the other guy with Davis this year.
It's about the team's No. 1 cornerback, entering a contract year, with the burden of being arguably the team's most indispensable player, not named Andrew Luck.
"When you have high expectations and the organization has invested in you, there's always going to be pressure," Davis says. "That comes with the territory. It's the business.
"Right now, I'm just taking a different approach to my game. I do things differently. Right now, I feel the best I've felt. Being motivated and having the drive, I think I can pull a lot of guys in the room. It falls on me."
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