If he’s going to live up to a four-year, $39-million deal with $20 million guaranteed, Davis is expected to evolve into an elite NFL cornerback.
Davis has looked the part of a shutdown corner — at times — in his two-year, 26-game career with the Colts. At other moments, he looked like a young guy with a lot of room to grow.
Indy is literally banking on the 26-year-old defender taking that next step. Davis teams with the oft-injured Greg Toler to provide the Colts’ 3-4 scheme with two reliable cover guys. But reliable isn’t enough for Davis, not with his new tax bracket. And his challenge is arguably one of the toughest — taking on the league’s best pass catchers.
Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was quite candid last week when posed the question of what it will take for Davis to be considered amongst the NFL’s elite corners.
“I think the standpoint of picks,” Manusky said. “If you’re going to say, ‘Okay, this guy’s an elite guy,’ well (Darrelle) Revis back in the day and doing what he did, it comes down to picks. Is he going to get picks? Sometimes it’s an elite guy that they’re not going to throw to him. From that standpoint, I think that’s the way the majority of people in the United States judge it, so that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Davis had one interception last season and three in his first year with the Colts since he was acquired in a preseason trade from Miami for a second-round draft choice. He has 13 career interceptions in five seasons.
Davis doesn’t sound like a guy too concerned with comparisons.
"I really don't measure myself against anyone,” he said last week during training camp. “I just prepare and go out and be the best that I can be and that’s all I can do and all that I can control to be the best player I can be.”
But what of the theory that when much is given, more is expected?
"It starts in practice, we control our own destiny, that’s every defense in the NFL,” Davis said. “NFL is a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ business. We have to look at this as it’s a new year. We have to set goals and aspirations for ourselves and work towards those goals, anything is possible.”
Davis likes playing with Toler as well as nickel back Darius Butler, so the Colts’ secondary has some continuity in guys that are used to each other. Perhaps more importantly, it helps that he’s comfortable with the Colts’ system, put in place when head coach Chuck Pagano and Manusky arrived in 2012.
”I think any time you are in the same system for one, two, three years, the calls come to you a lot,” Manusky said. “Then you start working on your technique a little bit more and from a corner standpoint, that is the major thing and over the years some guys, young guys when you get them out of college, all they are taught was back pedal and I don’t know what they were taught at other places in the in the NFL or even in college but for Vontae, he is buying into the system from a technique standpoint and how we are teaching it, and he has had success in it.
”He sees that success so he is going to rely on it and fall back on it. A lot of those young bucks when they come into the league they get in preseason games and the first thing they do is revert back to what they used to know. That is what we are trying to do with the young guys as well with the old guys, always push that technique and fundamentals that (secondary coach) Mike Gillhamer is pushing and usually success comes out of it because you'll see it.”
Davis missed some early camp time with a groin injury. But during his down time, he was always taking mental reps with safety LaRon Landry, who had a similar issue.
"It helps a lot because that’s how we stay in tune,” Davis said. “When we were down, we talked football all the time so when we came back, we didn't miss a step. We knew what we were doing because we talked about repetition and different plays so it helps that we kind of feed off each other.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.