How many times this season have you heard Vontae Davis get mentioned in the discussion of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League? Probably not many, as he seems to get forgotten or rather overlooked by many people around the game of football for one reason or another. Part of the problem may be that it just doesn’t seem natural to include him in a conversation with the likes of Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson. However, when taking a look at the stats this season, it becomes absolutely fair to wonder why Davis didn’t get stronger consideration for First Team All-Pro cornerback.
He finished the season with four interceptions, 20 pass deflections, and 42 combined tackles in16 games. The most staggering stat may be that he did not give up a touchdown all season to the man he was assigned to in coverage. To go along with all these numbers, he finished with the lowest opposing quarterback rating in the NFL when targeted at 38.8. Additionally, he had the second lowest completion percentage when targeted of 43.7. ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), one of the few sites to recognize his stellar play, deemed Davis to be the second best cornerback in all of the National Football League this season, only behind the Denver Broncos’ Chris Harris.
A lot of the problem stimulates from the fact that Davis doesn’t have much of a perception surrounding him. He’s not loud like Sherman, and it’s hard to even recall one play that stands out over the last three years in which he has been involved. He’s just an overall solid player who has fulfilled Ryan Grigson’s vision of how he would fit into the team. It’s safe to say that the second-round draft pick that the Colts gave up to get Davis was well worth the price.
To put it simply, Davis had a very great season this year and was the best defender on the entire Colts defense by a mile. Now with a road divisional playoff game coming up against the Broncos, Davis will again need to do what he has done all season, which is shut down the opposing teams’ best receiver. The challenge to Davis this week will be Peyton Manning’s top pass catcher in Demaryius Thomas, who in the two previous meetings with the Colts, has had trouble getting by Davis.
In terms of matchups on the field on Sunday, none may be more important than Davis vs. Thomas on the outside. If Davis can keep Thomas limited on Sunday, it can majorly affect how the game can swing in the favor of the Colts. With Thomas being potentially taken out of the equation, this will allow the rest of the defense to help on the other weapons that the Broncos have at their disposal. In particular, Emmanuel Sanders has had a very nice season with the Broncos, and it might be a lot to expect Greg Toler to handle him one-on-one for the large portion of the game.
The nightmare scenario for Colts fans is the one where both Thomas and Sanders have their way with the top two Indianapolis cornerbacks, which will more than likely lead to the Denver offense firing on all cylinders. The Colts can live with Sanders getting yardage during the course of the game, but not both. Davis will need to be the physical presence that has bothered almost everyone he has come up against over the course of the season.
Even though much has been made about the decline of Manning’s numbers and the possibility that he may be playing through an injury, Colts fans should know better than anyone that Manning isn’t going to sit back rather than exploit an opportunity to go at a weakness in the secondary. If he senses that he has winnable matchups on the outside, then that run-first mentality that has been evident in their approach over the last couple of weekends may be put to the side. Davis must take the pressure off of Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, so he can focus in on stopping the likes of C.J Anderson and others.
Another great performance from Davis against a rather explosive offense in a playoff game will go a long way in him gaining more respect from casual fans around the country, as well as from various members of the media who failed to even vote Davis Second Team All-Pro. All it may take is one dominating effort on a national stage to change the narrative that currently is attached to his name.