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It’s not often that a 24-year-old cornerback with the combination of size, speed and physicality of Vontae Davis is available via trade.
But with Dolphins new head coach Joe Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland deciding Davis was not going to reach his full potential in South Florida, Colts GM Ryan Grigson, who loved Davis coming out of Illinois in 2009, decided to roll the dice on the Colts getting the best out of the talented former first-rounder.
The cost to acquire Davis, a second- and conditional sixth-rounder in 2013, was significant – especially because the second-rounder figures to be high – but it also illustrates how desperate the Colts were to find press-man corners who would allow new head coach Chuck Pagano to play his aggressive 3-4 defense.
A player as talented as Davis likely wouldn’t have been available in the second round next April, though we hear a second- and the additional pick was a major gamble for a player who carries as much risk as Davis. This type of move is in line with the willingness Grigson and Pagano have shown to roll the dice early in their tenure, though. After top pick Andrew Luck, the Colts spent several draft picks on players with injury risks and other red flags.
So, what about Davis’ baggage?
A source on the scene in Miami for Davis’ first three seasons said he isn’t a bad kid, nor did he habitually make mistakes with the Dolphins; rather, he was a young player who had occasional run-ins and whose focus and work ethic was a problem at times.
According to the source, Davis struggled on the field as a rookie, before playing well in spots in ’10 and ’11. We hear facing Patriots QB Tom Brady twice a season shook Davis’ confidence and prevented him from playing to his strength: working in man coverage and getting his hands on receivers at the line. Brady’s Pats – as well as Chan Gailey’s Bills – spread defenses out, forcing them to play multiple coverages, which didn’t suit Davis as well. Fortunately, he will be asked to play plenty of man in Pagano’s scheme.
Word is Davis can be as good as he wants to be. How he responds to the trade — does he take it personally and allow it to sting his ego or embrace a fresh start? — will determine his level of success with the Colts in 2012.