Vontae's Wild Ride

Cornerback Vontae Davis' rookie season accurately reflects the Dolphins' up-and-down 7-7 record. The former Illinois standout and first-round pick has been stellar as his team-leading four interceptions — including one for a 23-yard touchdown against Buffalo — indicate.

But he has also been steadily exposed on long balls while his starting rookie cornerback counterpart Sean Smith has basically been left alone.

The 5-foot-11 Davis has given up six of the 18 touchdown passes allowed by Miami this season, including two in last week's 27-24 overtime loss to the Titans. But he has also come up big in the fourth quarter, with several of his nine pass breakups and a game-securing pick against Tom Brady to wrap up a 22-21 victory over New England.

And this week's challenge doesn't get any easier. Texans three-time Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson and his NFL-leading 1,433 reception yards come to Land Shark Stadium. He's been super-productive with 90 catches and eight touchdowns.

The 6-3, 235-pound Johnson, who has 20 catches for 389 yards with two TDs in his last two games, gets up for the Dolphins because he's a Miami native who played for the Hurricanes. Last year he had 10 catches for 178 yards against the Dolphins, and stole a ball away from safety Yeremiah Bell to key Houston's game-winning drive in a 29-28 victory.

"We have to slow him up," Davis said. "I've worked on finishing a lot of plays. A couple of weeks ago I wouldn't have made that play. It's just having that attitude that you got to make plays. You want the ball in your hands. Putting in your mind that you want to be the best."

Johnson has respect for both Davis and Smith.

"They are big corners so that is the thing most receivers don't like playing against," Johnson said of Davis and Smith. "I think the plays they do give up are from them being young and not having the full experience yet. I think as time goes on they are going to get better and better."

Since replacing injured veteran Will Allen in the starting lineup in Game 7, Davis has had to grow up quickly. In his first six starts, Davis faced the Patriots' Randy Moss twice, Buffalo's Terrell Owens and Carolina's Steve Smith, who have a combined 16 Pro Bowls among them. He was torched for long scores by Smith, Owens and Moss.

"Vontae has had some pretty good tussles with some pretty good people and has held his own. But it did seem like a couple of times they were trying to get the ball at him," Coach Tony Sparano said of teams targeting Davis instead of Smith. "One thing I am going to say about Vontae is that obviously there were two plays in the game (Sunday) that didn't go his own way. The guy played 62 plays yesterday, he had 58 pluses. It is pretty good game other than the big plays."


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