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Indianapolis Colts 2015 Position Review: Cornerbacks

The cornerback position was hit hard with injuries in 2015 and enters the offseason with plenty of questions. Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson takes a look back at the position.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback position was obviously the most impacted by injuries for the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, but if there was a second place award, it would go to the cornerback position.

Starter Greg Toler missed six games due to injury, while Darius Butler missed two games.  Vontae Davis, who played in all 16 games, still suffered some injuries and wasn't always playing at 100%.  D'Joun Smith, Tevin Mitchell, and Josh Mitchell all sat on the Colts' injured reserve when the regular season ended.  Sheldon Price was placed on the Colts' injured reserve but waived later on.  The same situation happened with Jalil Brown, though he was brought back late in the season.  That resulted in a number of different corners seeing playing time with the team: Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, D'Joun Smith, Jalil Brown, Sheldon Price, Josh Thomas, Eric Patterson, Tony Carter, Shaun Prater, and Tay Glover-Wright all played in at least one game with the team this year.

Vontae Davis was once again named to the Pro Bowl for his play (though he was an alternate), the second year in a row the Colts' standout cornerback has been recognized with the honor.  Davis didn't quite live up to his level of play in 2014, but he still had a very good season.  He played in all 16 games and recorded 48 tackles, 16 passes defensed, and four interceptions.  Three of Davis' picks came in the red zone (two of which were in the end zone), proving to be key interceptions.  He led the team with 16 passes defensed (11th-most in the NFL) and had six different games with multiple passes broken up.  He allowed a few touchdowns this year (after allowing zero in 2014), but Davis again proved to be the Colts' best defensive player and a very good cornerback.

Opposite of Davis, however, the Colts had plenty of struggles in 2015.  Greg Toler started ten games there, but he missed the first four games of the season with a neck injury and then missed two games later in the year due to injury as well.  Toler recorded 51 tackles, 10 passes defensed, and forced fumble, but he was (once again) burned way too often.  He gave up plenty of big plays and was a liability at times for the team's defense.  The problem, however, was that Toler was still the team's best option as the number two starter.

Daris Butler started a couple of games in relief of Toler and he didn't do well either, instead getting burned and doing his best Toler impression.  Butler is at his best in the slot, where he was once again a solid player for the Colts.  The problem comes when he is played out of position on the outside, which he was asked to do multiple times this year due to other injuries at the position.  On the season, Butler played in 14 games (he missed two due to injury as well) and recorded 50 tackles, four passes defensed, an interception, and two forced fumbles.

Jalil Brown was one of the stars of training camp and made the roster as a fifth cornerback, but he was soon thrust into expanded action as Greg Toler, Darius Butler, and D'Joun Smith all were injured.  Brown ended up starting four games for the Colts and played in eight, recording 22 tackles and three passes defensed.  He didn't play too well, but that was to be expected for a guy who was supposed to be the fifth corner but instead wound up starting.  He too was injured mid-season, and the Colts placed him on their injured reserve in early October before waiving him from their IR.  Later in the year, the Colts brought him back for the final few weeks of the season.

Rookie D'Joun Smith entered the season as the team's fourth cornerback, and the Colts had plenty of hopes for their third round pick.  He had a bit of a rough training camp but was a player with plenty of talent and ability.  The hope was that he would show enough this year that the Colts could be able to move on from Toler after the season, but that didn't happen.  Instead, Smith missed the first half of the season, being placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, and he was activated after the bye week.  He played in four games, recording a tackle and a fumble recovery and seeing limited snaps, but he was ultimately placed on injured reserve again late in the season.  We really didn't get to see Smith enough to form any sort of opinion on him, so we once again enter the offseason knowing that the corner has talent but not having seen it on the field yet.

Several other cornerbacks saw action for the Colts this year, too.  Sheldon Price played in two games and started one, recording one tackle, but was placed on injured reserve in late September and waived from IR a few days later.  He is currently with the Baltimore Ravens.  Josh Thomas played in eight games with the Colts, recording four tackles and a pass defensed.  He is currently on the Dallas Cowboys' roster.  Eric Patterson played in two games with the Colts this year (recording two tackles), as did Tay Glover-Wright - who is still with the team.  Tony Carter played in three games, while Shaun Prater played in one game while spending two different (brief) stints with the team.

Moving forward, the Colts have their number one cornerback in Vontae Davis in place, but after that is a question mark.  Darius Butler is still a solid slot cornerback and should continue to fill that role for Indy, but the real question comes at the number two cornerback spot.  Greg Toler will be an unrestricted free agent and it would be a surprise if the team decided to bring him back.  He hasn't impressed or produced with the Colts either, so it would be the right decision to move on from him.  It's not as simple as "addition by subtraction," however, as we saw clearly in 2015 that the Colts don't really have anybody who can step in and fill the role for Toler.  Butler is a slot corner and struggled on the outside, as did pretty much everyone the Colts tried out there.  If the Colts move on from Toler (as they should), they need to make sure that they have someone to replace him.  That could mean targeting another cornerback in either free agency or the draft, or it could mean D'Joun Smith taking on a much bigger role in 2016.  The Colts really like Smith, but it remains to be seen whether they like him enough to count on him to replace Toler as the starting cornerback after missing most of his rookie season.

If the Colts find a way to upgrade from Greg Toler and add pass rush help (meaning the corners hopefully won't have to cover as long), they should have a very good group for 2016.  But as it is right now, with a big question mark at their number two cornerback position and lacking in pass rushers, the position has to be considered an area of need this offseason.

For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2015 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: