The Indianapolis Colts used three of their eight draft picks in last weekend’s NFL Draft on their secondary, and it was much-needed, too.
The team brought in Ohio State safety Malik Hooker with their first round pick, selected Florida’s Quincy Wilson in the second round, and drafted Temple’s Nate Hairston in round five. The moves gave the Colts some pieces to work with in the secondary, but they also added to the inexperience in the secondary as well.
At cornerback, there’s Vontae Davis and then there’s everyone else. Davis has appeared in 115 career games and started 108 of them; the other cornerbacks on the roster have played in 84 career games combined and started 15 of them. Davis has played in and started 71 games for the Colts during five seasons with the team; the other cornerbacks on the roster have played in 36 games and started 12 combined during four years with the team. Clearly, Davis has far more experience.
At safety, that’s the same situation that Darius Butler finds himself in. Butler has appeared in 109 games and started 38 of them; the other safeties on the roster have played in 55 career games combined and started 15 of them. Butler has played in 67 games for the Colts and started 24 in five seasons with the team; the other safeties have played in 55 games combined and started 15 of them for the Colts in four seasons. Clearly, Butler has far more experience.
That means that this year, Davis and Butler will be the veterans of a young unit overall.
“Yeah, I don’t feel old because I have such a young spirit,” Davis said on Tuesday. “But the faces, the guys around me are 21, 22. The only thing that is giving me hope is Darius Butler. He’s the oldest guy in the room. He’s still here. Me and D-Buts still here.”
Davis has been a very good cornerback on the field in the last five years, and he realizes that now more than ever he’ll be counted on to be a leader in the locker room because the young guys will be looking up to him.
“It doesn’t change my approach. I just want to lead by example and do all the right things,” Davis said. “I have been in the league a long time and I had success in this league. Those guys being young, they probably won’t say it, but they’re going to come in and look up to me. That’s just what young guys do. They come in and look up to veterans who have made a name in the league. I’ve done the same thing so 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. I just want to set a great example and answer questions for those guys. Just 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.”
The Colts have added a lot of young faces, and that obviously means that Vontae Davis and Darius Butler will be looked at even more as leaders. Davis seems to accept that, and that’s a great thing for the Colts moving forward. But that doesn’t mean that he also doesn’t expect these young guys to contribute right away, because he’s got high hopes for them in 2017.
“We drafted first round and second round – we drafted those guys to come in and play right away,” Davis said. “Being in this league, I was a first round pick myself. You come in and we expect you to play. The guys we drafted, of course they are talented. You won’t go first or second round unless you have talent or ability. Everybody knows the guys that are coming in, Hooker and Quincy Wilson, we expect a lot from those guys.”
It’s likely that Davis will be lining up alongside those two in 2017, with Quincy Wilson likely to start opposite of Davis at cornerback and Malik Hooker expected to start at safety. Both guys should help Davis, as they give the Colts a legitimate starter to pair with Davis and a safety who can provide great help in coverage over the top.
Davis, who is entering the final year of his contract with Indianapolis, has produced in the past and looks to continue to do so this year. But this year, he’ll carry an added sense of leadership as he not only plays alongside these young guys but as he provides a good role model for them too. If you’re Chris Ballard and Chuck Pagano, you have to love that mindset and approach from your veteran corner.