Vontae Davis has been the Colts' best cover corner this season, but struggled against Andre Johnson and the Houston Texans on Sunday. Davis hasn't been as good as hoped after trading away a second and sixth round pick for the young cornerback. Although he has the best pure cover skills on the team, he's struggled to track the ball in the air, leading to completions that should have been stops for the young defender.
On Sunday, this was exactly what happened, as Davis allowed Schaub to complete eight of ten passes in his direction for 119 yards. Why did Davis allow such big numbers? Here's a detailed look at how they happened.
1-10-HST 20 (15:00 First Quarter) M.Schaub pass short left to A.Johnson to HST 29 for 9 yards (V.Davis).
The first play of the game was a short curl route by Johnson. Davis lines up in tight press coverage, but Johnson uses a one-handed push-off to get separation, and the pass was right on time. There's not a lot that Davis can do in this situation.
2-1-HST 29 (14:34 First Quarter) M.Schaub pass deep middle to A.Johnson to IND 19 for 52 yards (V.Davis).
On the very next play, the Texans went right back to Johnson, this time on a play-action bootleg. On the play, the Colts have every player within about eight yards of the line of scrimmage (a dangerous set up), with Antoine Bethea in man-to-man coverage, and Joe Lefeged taken out of the play when he bit hard on the play action.
Davis comes across the field to match up with Johnson, who is bunched on the right side. On the release, Johnson takes a step towards the inside just as the playfake is going on. The combination of the two causes Davis to take his eyes off of Johnson and turn towards the inside for a minute, and Johnson takes off downfield. Davis realizes his mistake as the handoff is a fake, and spins around to chase Johnson, who has about five yards of separation at this point. If not for a horrible pass by Matt Schaub, this would have been a touchdown.
With the underthrown pass, Davis catches up to Johnson, but never turns to track the ball, and thus allows Johnson to get around him to make the catch. It was a great catch by Johnson, but Davis still could have easily prevented the catch, or possibly gotten a turnover had he tracked the ball in the air at all.
2-1-HST 47 (10:05 First Quarter) M.Schaub pass short left to O.Daniels to IND 45 for 8 yards (V.Davis).
Davis got matched up with Owen Daniels on the next drive, as the Texans lined up the tight end as a wide out. Daniels runs a short in route, and the size of the tight end is too much for Davis, as Schaub puts the ball exactly where it needs to be. Again, there's not a lot Davis can do here.
1-10-HST 20 (1:07 Second Quarter) (Shotgun) M.Schaub pass short left to K.Walter to HST 27 for 7 yards (V.Davis).
Davis lines up about 10 yards off of the line of scrimmage on this play, as the Colts are defending against anything long and on the sidelines. Kevin Walter ran a quick out route on this play, and dug the low throw out of the turf. Davis closed very quickly on the play, hitting Walter hard, keeping him in bounds and not allowing any yards after the catch. In that scenario, it's about as good of a play as you can hope for from Davis.
2-3-HST 27 (:49 Second Quarter) (Shotgun) M.Schaub pass short left to A.Johnson to HST 32 for 5 yards (D.Butler)
On the next play, Davis lines up tight on Andre Johnson, but gets beat on a quick inside cut, and allows Johnson to get the short pass, although Darius Butler was right there to make the tackle. In the situation it's actually a good result for the Colts, just a gain of five yards and the clock keeps ticking, but it was not good coverage by Davis.
1-10-HST 44 (13:20 Third Quarter) M.Schaub pass short left to A.Johnson pushed ob at IND 42 for 14 yards (V.Davis).
Another example of Davis' tight coverage still resulting in a completion, Davis lines up tight on Johnson in man coverage. Johnson runs straight ahead, expecting a high fade from Schaub on a quick hitter. Davis is right with Johnson throughout the play, but fails to recognize the ball is coming, and doesn't even make an attempt to knock down the pass as Johnson stops and leaps for the catch.
3-15-HST 26 (:22 Third Quarter) (Shotgun) M.Schaub pass deep left to A.Johnson to HST 42 for 16 yards (M.Fokou).
This one hurt. The Colts had just gone 80 yards for a touchdown, and the defense had forced a long third down that looked to get the Colts' the ball back to start the fourth quarter. But on 3rd and 15, Johnson victimized them again.
Davis starts the play about 10-yards off the line of scrimmage, and the Colts look to be lined up in zone coverage. Johnson runs a curl to the outside, and Davis reacts fairly quickly, coming up on the outside shoulder. But Schaub's throw was as good as it gets, low and to the inside, literally the only place where Johnson could get it, but Davis could not. Even so, Davis' outstrectched arm is just inches away from breaking the play up. You could argue that Davis should have broke for the inside shoulder there, but I'd argue in his defense, as Johnson's curl route broke outside.
2-17-HST 35 (14:31 Fourth Quarter) M.Schaub pass short left to A.Johnson to HST 41 for 6 yards (V.Davis).
This play is very similar to the play near the end of the first half, as Johnson runs a quick in, getting a step on Davis and then shielding him from the ball with his body. Despite Fouts' claiming "You can't cover him any closer than Vontae Davis is covering him" after this play, Davis actually gave up a step that led to this completion.
2-13-IND 30 (9:23) M.Schaub pass incomplete deep left to A.Johnson.
Davis bites on a double (or triple) move after lining up in press man coverage, but gets away with a shove as Johnson tried to blow past him. The pass from Schaub was nowhere close either way, but Davis got away with poor coverage and a penalty here.
After re-watching the film, I'd contend that Davis didn't play nearly as poorly as his stat line indicated. On the plays not listed here, Davis generally had pretty tight coverage, and even on a few of these plays, I'd argue that he doesn't deserve much, if any, blame.
But, Davis' day wasn't good either, especially considering the awful play on the second play of the game (52-yard completion to Johnson) and his difficulties tracking the ball.
In terms of coverage, Davis doesn't get beath all that often, and I'm happy with him as a starter in that regard. I would like to see better insincts when the ball is in the air, however.
For a second round pck, this appears to be a good value to me, and here's why: He's a decent NFL starter. If he does that for three years, I'd say he's fulfilled his part of the deal. But I think it will be even better than that yawn-inducing reason. (A) He is young so if we want him, we should have him for maybe 7 more years (the super crap shoot phase of any draftee's career is passed) and (B) he should "get better" because this is the first year of a new D and the supporting cast should both improve in terms of pure talent and they should gel and play better as wellin future.
Finally, comparing him to Andre Johnson is a pretty high standard--arguably a top-5 WR talent. There should be 25 other #1 WRs he would be expected to do better against, right? I can live with that.
What the analysis above sounds like to me is that he has good skills covering men (body on a body) but poor ball instincts. That is pretty weird for a CB to get this far with poor ball instincts, but I assume that is the kind of thing that can be worked on--I can think up some drills off the top of my head to have guys standing behind him, peppering the air with balls to force him to turn quickly, pick it up, adjust and catch or bat it away. I imagine you do that a couple hundred times a day for six or seven months, you'd develop a knack for locating tracking, and getting a hand on the ball, no? Sounds like his "body work" has him in about the right place, which to me seems like tha more difficult thing to teach.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: If Tim Jennings can put together an All-Pro season and Nnamdi Asomuaugh can look pedestrian in Philly, I'm done putting the performance of cornerbacks entirely on their shoulders. Scheme and supporting cast seems to be doing 80 percent of the work.
We're happy with him as a starter, so the question is - is he worth a 2? IMO, he's well worth it even if he continues at this level of play. Go back to our last 5 second round picks. How many starters, how many with the team? Second round is a crap shoot, we don't have to roll that dice now.
@smonroe Exactly. Fleener has shown potential but I can easily see him failing to make the leap. Davis is an NFL starter; what more do you want for second rounder?
I believe I saw somewhere that the 6th round pick was no longer part of the trade due to playing time stipulations.
@Kiel_82 It was in the IndyStar article about Grigson and the Davis trade
@Coltsheadben @lezmaka @Kiel_82 I wouldn't say it's savvy to trade for a guy who doesn't make playing time benchmarks, though I'm glad Grigson was able to hedge a bit against Vontae getting hurt. I might buy that knew the Colts 2nd round pick would be closer to #53 than #33 but even the brightest optimist couldn't have predicted they'd make the playoffs so soon.
Grigson just plain sees more long-term value in Vontae than the rest of us do. I hope he's right.