13 for '13 Number 5: Cornerback Vontae Davis

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the Colts' regular season opener against the Oakland Raiders on September 8, we will count down the 13 players most important to the team's success in 2013. Today we look at number 5 on the list, cornerback Vontae Davis.

Two of the Colts' four starters in the secondary this season were brought in this offseason as free agents. The two that weren't both appear on this list, with safety Antoine Bethea coming in at number 9 and now cornerback Vontae Davis appearing at number 5.

Davis was brought in last season just weeks before the start of the regular season in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, who sent Davis to the Colts in exchange for a second round pick in this past April's draft. It was a tremendous trade for Indianapolis, and now the player they got back looks to play a major role to the team's success this year.

Vonate Davis has the skill set to become an elite corner. He struggled early on last year but improved as the season went on, once again playing well enough to give Colts fans very high hopes for the upcoming season. And from what we've seen so far this preseason, those expectations are absolutely warranted, as Davis has been the corner the Colts want him to be. He has shown great coverage skills and has stuck with his man like glue for much of the plays, and in addition he has provided a very physical presence on the outside, at the same time being a tremendous open field tackler. If he can keep that level of play up, the Colts secondary will show major signs of improvement this year, if for no other reason than Vontae Davis.

But it doesn't lie just with Davis, as the Colts' starting four in the secondary really impressed in limited time together this preseason, and there are really high expectations for them in 2013. Bethea and LaRon Landry at safety and Davis and Greg Toler at corner look to be a very formidable group that hits hard and plays physical. A lot of people have compared the physicality of this secondary to the 2007 Colts that had Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden at corner and Bethea and Bob Sanders at safety (Sanders would win the NFL's defensive player of the year award that season).

If that comparison is going to be made, then Vontae Davis will be a big key in seeing that they live up to it. The biggest way he can do that is by staying on the field. He played in only 10 games last year for the Colts and played in only 12 games the year before for the Dolphins. He's not the most durable player and so obviously he needs to actaully be on the field to contribute.

And him being on the field is critical to the team's success. If he plays the entire season (or even most of it), I think we'll be talking about Vontae Davis as a shutdown corner. If he gets injured, it will leave a gap at the cornerback spot that will be reminiscent of more recent years instead of 2007, and that's not a pleasant thought.

Andy Benoit wrote of Davis back in March for Pro Football Focus that, "Davis is on the cusp of being a top-10 cornerback. He operates well in true man coverage, makes plays on the ball, and is a very effective tackler in space near the line of scrimmage."

That's a feeling that is echoed by quite a few people throughout the league, but there are definitely those who disagree too. For the Colts to take the steps forward in 2013 that they expect to, Davis is going to need to continue to become that elite-level corner. If he struggles or gets injured, he will leave a hole at the starting cornerback spot that not only would leave the secondary much more susceptible but a hole that could potentially destroy their defense this season too (regardless of what you say, Darius Butler is a slot corner and Cassius Vaughn can't fill Davis' shoes either).

So because of how crucial Vontae Davis is to the Colts' success in 2013, he checks in on our list at number 5.

Check out our list counting down the 13 most important players to the Colts' success in 2013:

13. Cory Redding, defensive end

12. Coby Fleener, tight end

11. T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver

10. Pat McAfee, punter

9. Antoine Bethea, safety

8. Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker

7. Jerrell Freeman, inside linebacker

6. Dwayne Allen, tight end

5. Vontae Davis, cornerback

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