We are T-Minus six days and counting until the start of the 2012 regular season for the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts. Between now and Sunday, September 9th, we'll be doing in-depth previews of the team's 53-man roster and all other elements associated with the Colts. Football is nearly here. We're so excited, we practically peed our pants just now.
The offseason of the 2012 Indianapolis Colts will be forever defined by two roster moves: The releasing of Peyton Manning and the drafting of Andrew Luck. However, a move that is almost as important (not quite, but close) is the trade for disappointing corner Vontae Davis.
Davis was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 25th overall pick in 2009 NFL Draft, just two selections before the Colts took Donald Brown. Davis played his college ball at Illinois, but decided to forgo his senior year. Interestingly, one of his biggest games was against Indiana in 2007 where he notched 9 tackles (7 solo), a pick, and a blocked punt on special teams. Davis finished his career at Illinois with 206 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 7 INTs, and one TD.
With the Dolphins since 2009, Davis has earned 148 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, 9 INTs, and one TD. Last season alone, he had 4 picks. To place this in a perspective relative to the Colts, the best corner on this team the last three years was Jerraud Powers. His best season was his rookie year. He started 12 regular season games, notched 51 tackles, 2 picks, and one TD. In his career, which is just as long as Davis', he's got 170 tackles, 5 picks, one TD, and one forced fumble. Powers has also missed 14 games due to injury during his career. He has never played a full season. Davis has missed only 4 games total. All came in his rookie year.
Those numbers there should tell you all you need to know about how critical Davis is the the success of the Colts new defense. Powers cannot be trusted to play a full season. He's averaged four games missed per year, and he will likely missed four or more this year. He's not a primary corner. He's a good 2nd corner, and would be an ideal slot corner. Fans should hope that either Cassius Vaughn or Josh Gordy develops into a starting caliber corner. If they do, then Powers likely has more longevity. If they don't, they'll probably be starting anyway because Powers will get hurt.
Back to Davis, despite his well-documented troubles in Miami, even his "bad" years produced better numbers than any corner the Colts have had in four years. Going back to 2005, when Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden were drafted, no Colts corner has grabbed more than 3 INTs on a regular season.
In fact, the best season for a Colts defender, in terms of picks, during that stretch was Cato June's 2005 effort. He had 5 that season, returning 2 for TDs.
What Davis brings to the secondary is talent. SERIOUS talent. Talent we haven't seen from the corner spot since the days of 'Big Play' Ray Buchanan, who once had 8 picks and 3 TDs in one season for our blue ponies back in 1994. Playmaking talent at the corner position was always lacking during the Peyton Manning years. Most of the corners were solid, and who can forget the two big INTs in the 2006 playoff run (one by Marlin Jackson in the AFCCG and the other by Kelvin Hayden in SB 41). However, guys like Jackson, Hayden, or Nick Harper didn't scare anyone.
Davis has scary talent. Shutdown talent.
The key for Davis will be keeping his head on straight. Showing up for practice still drunk from the night before? That cannot be tolerated. Getting Davis out of South Beach and putting him in an environment where veterans like Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne can mentor him might be best for him. If he straights up, he's got all the talent in the world. For a rebuilt 3-4 defense that requires corners to play man-to-man often, it's that talent could make a huge difference.