The cornerback position has been a heavily scrutinized group for the Colts over the last couple of years, but it’s a position that I think is really on the rise. I was slightly surprised that the Colts decided not to take a cornerback with one of their top picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, but I think there’s enough talent there to get by again this season.
Led by Vontae Davis and Darius Butler, the Colts’ cornerback position was able to pick off a total of nine passes last season, which accounted for 75 percent of the team’s interceptions.
The Colts only had 12 INTs as a team, and finished with a -12 turnover ratio. Despite having a rookie at both quarterback and running back, that’s a very low figure that you figure has to go up in 2013.
This defense doesn’t really have anyone that you look at the roster and say, “this guy stands out as an upper tier corner,” but they certainly have some nice pieces and Vontae Davis has the skill set to be one of the best corners in the league. They also added some talent through free agency by bringing on former Arizona Cardinals corner Greg Toler. Here is a look at the corners on the Colts’ roster going into training camp.
Vontae Davis, 25
Vontae Davis had a really solid season statistically in his first year with the Colts, despite playing in just 10 games. He graded out as a top 24 corner last year according to Pro Football Focus, and finished the season with 51 tackles and three interceptions. Davis has a chance to be an elite cornerback in the NFL at just 25 years of age and four NFL seasons under his belt, and the Colts are expecting big things in his second season with the club.
Davis is entering a contract year, and he has quite a bit to prove having played just 22 of 32 potential games in the last two seasons with Miami and Indianapolis. This is a guy who has great size and speed, and is a former first rounder who has excellent cover skills.
Davis is undoubtedly the #1 corner on the Colts’ roster, and he is capable of shutting down one side of the field. He needs to be better with his consistency, but I see no reason why the Colts shouldn’t be really excited about this guy’s future. He will have to earn a new contract with Indianapolis, and I think he will do just that.
Greg Toler, 28
The Colts made a really good move when they got Greg Toler to be–we believe to be, anyway–the starting corner opposite Vontae Davis on the outside. Toler is injury prone and hasn’t played a full 16 game season in his career, but he is a big, long, press corner who can be a really effective #2 option alongside Davis.
Toler had his biggest season in the NFL with the Cardinals two years ago when he notched 90 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a sack, playing in 14 games. Toler is on a streak of two straight years with one interception for a touchdown, so hopefully he can bring some of that playmaking skill to the Colts’ defensive backfield.
The Colts could use Toler as a slot corner, but after signing him to a pretty rich three-year deal, I think it’s safe to assume Toler is in line to earn a starting job.
Darius Butler, 27
Butler inexplicably fell off the map after a rookie season with the Patriots in which the second round pick had three interceptions, one for a touchdown, and then he ended up getting cut two years ago by New England.
The former UConn star landed with the Carolina Panthers on a waiver claim, and was let go after one season with the team, and it looked like the former second rounder had officially reached bust status.
Then, something clicked when he got to the Colts. Certainly Butler was not without flaw last season, but he had a team-leading four interceptions, two for touchdowns, as well as eight passes defended.
Butler has established himself as the nickel corner in the Colts’ defense, a position that has become increasingly critical in today’s NFL. WIth Vontae Davis on the outside along with Greg Toler, Butler should help form a really formidable three-man rotation at the top for the Colts.
Indianapolis re-signed the former Patriot and Panther to a two year contract, and they expect him to be a big part of the defense in 2013.
Cassius Vaughn, 25
Cassius Vaughn was buried on the depth chart with the Denver Broncos, and was another phenomenal pickup by general manager Ryan Grigson for the Colts last offseason. After playing primarily special teams in Denver, Vaughn came over to the Colts and made 11 starts in 16 games with 66 tackles and a pick six.
Where Vaughn is also really valuable is on special teams. He doesn’t make a ton of special teams tackles, but he can be a kick or punt returner as well as a gunner, and I think the Colts could find a lot of different ways to use him.
Unless there are injuries, I don’t think he will hit 66 tackles again this season, but I certainly think Vaughn has a chance to be an impact player for the Colts this year. He has excellent speed and has worked hard to earn a spot in the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Josh Gordy, 26
Gordy was acquired for the Rams last season in a trade after he made three interceptions and wound up as a starter with the Rams in 2011. Despite his productivity with the Rams, Gordy graded poorly in both coverage and run support but the Colts obviously believe he can really help their team.
After trading for Gordy in 2012, the Colts re-signed the former Central Michigan corner in 2013 and at worst, he can make an impact on special teams. He should be able to lock down a roster spot with the Colts as a fifth cornerback, but there will be some competition this year.
Marshay Green, 27
Marshay Green is a member of the class of 2010 who ended up with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and cracked the active roster as a rookie for insurance for Patrick Peterson.
Green may not have a good shot at a roster spot unless he proves his worth on special teams. Coming out of Mississippi, he was a really good athlete with below average size who could run pretty well and had good explosiveness.
This is a player who is going to need some big practices and a really good pre-seaosn to make the Colts’ final roster.
Teddy Williams, 25
Teddy Williams is a former track star out of Texas-San Antonio who has a really intriguing skill set. He is a converted receiver at 6’3″ and over 200 pounds that can absolutely fly, running a 4.31 second 40 yard dash at his NFL pro day.
Prior to trying to make it in the NFL, Williams hadn’t even played football since his high school days as a wide receiver. He is extremely raw, but was signed to the Colts’ active roster last year off the practice squad when some injuries came about.
If Williams has a solid camp, his size and athletic ability might be too enticing for the Colts to allow to hit the open market.
Dax Swanson, 22
Swanson is a rookie out of Sam Houston State whose claim to fame is picking off Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, but he is also the school’s all-time leader in interceptions (14) who didn’t have good measurables coming out of college.
This is a little playmaker who finds ways to get his hands on the ball, and he’s worth keeping an eye on in the pre-season. Either his instincts will prove to be the difference, or his lack of size and speed with cause him to get completely burned at the NFL level.
Sheldon Price, 22
Price is a big corner at 6’2″ 190 pounds that was really productive at UCLA, but he fell out of the draft because of consistency. He picked off three passes against Houston one week, and then looked completely lost at times.
His size and athletic ability lead me to believe he is a prime candidate for the practice squad for the Colts, because these type of athletes don’t grow on trees.
Allen Chapman, 21
Former JUCO transfer who ended up finishing his college career at Kansas State, where he tied for the team lead with five interceptions in 2012. Three of those interceptions came in one game against Oklahoma State, but Chapman was a pretty solid playmaker for the Wildcats all year.
At 5’11″ 184 pounds with 4.5 speed, Chapman is a really solid athlete who deserves a long look at camp from the Colts. I think you look at the three UDFAs they signed and they got some guys that can be really good steals, perhaps even contend for roster spots. Chapman is still really raw, but he has some upside and good ball skills. I think this was a very good pickup by Indy.