Vontae Davis will sit this one out

Colts secondary must do without its best cover guy, who is still recovering from a concussion sustained last Sunday.

The Indianapolis Colts will be without Vontae Davis, one of the NFL’s best cover cornerbacks, for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

Davis suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s 49-27 home win over Washington, didn’t practice all week and was ruled out Friday by coach Chuck Pagano.

As soon as the news spread on social media, fans groaned at the thought of a weakened secondary trying to contain Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who led the league in receiving yards a year ago and has been targeted 29 times in two games.

The Colts don’t typically assign Davis to the opponent’s No. 1 receiver. He lines up on the defense’s right side with Greg Toler on the left. Nickel back Darius Butler will start in place of Davis, then move inside to the slot in nickel packages with Josh Gordy lining up outside.

Davis has three of the team’s nine interceptions. Often times, teams just avoided throwing his way. Tennessee didn’t test him once in a Sept. 28 visit to Lucas Oil Stadium. Signed to a four-year, $39-million deal in the offseason, the sixth-year pro was having his best NFL season.

Aside from worrying about Gordon, the Colts are thin at defensive back. The only other one is Jalil Brown, who was re-signed on Thanksgiving Day for a third stint in two years. The fourth-year pro played in three games earlier this season and five last year.

“Well, we’ve been there before,” Pagano said, referring to replacing key players lost to injuries, “so we’ve got capable guys that have practiced well this weaken Josh Gordy, Jalil Brown. It is what it is.

“In a pinch, (safety) Colt Anderson’s come in in a game and had to play in a special package. We’ve got a bunch of guys that understand and know the system and the package, so they can go in and play at a high level. We don’t have a choice, right?”

The Colts (8-4) could clinch the AFC South Division title with a victory over the Browns (7-5) and a Houston (6-6) loss at Jacksonville.

Pagano acknowledged the obvious, that regardless of who is playing, the defense will need to account for Gordon on every snap.

“We know he’s missed some time,” the coach said of the receiver’s 10-game suspension, “but we also know that he’s a talented, talented guy.”

Since his Nov. 17 return, Gordon has caught 15 passes for 195 yards. Last season, he had 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine TDs. And his league-leading receiving yards total was amassed in 14 games.

“So do we have to know where he’s at at all times? Absolutely,” Pagano said. “Do we have to take care of him? Yeah.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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