Colts training camp preview: Spotlight on the secondary
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The next step in the Indianapolis Colts’ bid to put an unfulfilling 2015 season behind them comes Tuesday when they report to Anderson University for the start of training camp.
We’ve taken a positional look at how they’ve positioned themselves not only to challenge for the AFC South title but a possible run at Super Bowl 51, and wrap up our series with the defensive backs.
Projected starters: CB Vontae Davis, CB Patrick Robinson, S Mike Adams, S Clayton Geathers.
Potential backups: CB Darius Butler, CB D’Joun Smith, CB Jalil Brown, CB Daniel Davie, CB Tay Glover-Wright, CB Christopher Milton, Tevin Mitchel, CB Winston Rose, CB Darius White, CB Frankie Williams, S T.J. Green, S Winston Guy, S Stefan McClure, S Dezmen Southward, S Andrew Williamson.
Room to grow: Davis has more than fulfilled the expectations that came with his 2012 relocation from Miami. General manager Ryan Grigson needed a solid cornerback, and got his man in a trade with the Dolphins that cost him a second-round draft pick.
Davis has brought stability and reliability to the position. He’s started 57 of 64 regular-season games, and produced eight interceptions and been credited with 34 defended passes. Most impressively, he’s been selected to the past two Pro Bowls. Davis is the first Colts corner so honored since Bobby Boyd in 1968 and joins Bert Rechichar (1955-56) as the only Colts corner to be recognized in consecutive seasons.
Coach Chuck Pagano wants more. After an impeccable 2014 during which he didn’t allow a touchdown pass, Davis struggled with consistency last season. A contributing factor was a foot injury that required offseason surgery.
“Consistency,” Pagano replied when asked the next phase of Davis’ game. “Down after down after down after down. Game after game after game after game. Week after week.
“Consistency. No rollercoasters.”
Cornerback is an unforgiving position. If a player is on top of his game for 58 of 60 snaps but falters twice and gives up game-changing plays, it’s a very bad day at the office. The Colts corners are required to be aggressive and often are on their own, which magnifies the challenge.
“You can’t be afraid to fail,” said Davis. “That causes you to think about making a mistake. It’s preparing every day, doing everything you can. It’s being who you are. Get your work in. Do what got you to this point. Work at it.
“Never be complacent. You can always learn something new.”
Davis smiled when informed of Pagano’s desire for him to be more consistent.
“That’s a big challenge,” he said. “That’s with anything you’re doing. You want to be consistent at it. You want to be good all the time. As hard as it sounds, it can be done.
“That’s a pressure you put on yourself to play high-level football all the time. It’s not something that can happen overnight. It starts one day at a time. The sky’s the limit when you want to do great things, but it takes work.”
Davis has no intention of allowing complacency to seep into his game.
“Oh, no, man. Never,” he said. “Every year you want to prove something to yourself. It’s that word: consistency. You have to be able to do it time after time after time. All the time.
“That’s the big thing for me every year. You want to prove to yourself, ‘Can I do it again? Can I do it again?”’
After working with Greg Toler the past three seasons, Davis likely will be paired with Robinson, one of Grigson’s few offseason free-agent pickups, this season.
“They believe in me and Pat to be the guys to get the job done,” he said.
Both extremes: The Colts’ safety situation offers a strange mix of experience and youth. Adams is 35 and entering his 13th season. He’s appeared in the last two Pro Bowls. Geathers is 24 and heading into his second season. The 2015 fourth-round draft pick appeared in 15 games as a rookie, two as a starter when Adams was out with an ankle injury. Green, who is expected to challenge for serious backup reps, is 21 and was a second-round pick in the April draft.
“I guess that’s the way it’s shaking out right now,” Adams said. “I just know I’m still competing. I’m 13 years in, but I still have the mentality that I was undrafted, that nobody wanted me.
“I’ll have that mentality until they tell me to pack my bags.”
Conversely, the careers of Geathers and Green are in the formative stage. Even so, the team needs Geathers to make the normal progression in year 2. Much of his exposure last season was as an extra safety in the nickel package or as a pseudo linebacker to help cover tight ends.
“Just playing time last year meant a lot,” Geathers said. “I’m a lot more comfortable this year.”
He admitted he’s anticipating an expanded role moving forward.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “I always have faith in myself. I’ve always believed in myself from day 1, since Little League.
“I’ve got this opportunity. Not everybody gets this opportunity. You’ve got to make the most of it. You’ve got to come with a hungry attitude every day.”
Worth noting: Adams should go down as one of the Colts’ best free-agent acquisitions. Ever. Signed prior to the veterans’ minicamp in June 2014 – a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum of $955,000 – he’s appeared in the Pro Bowl each season on the strength of 29 starts, 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Adams is the first Colt with at least five interceptions in back-to-back seasons since Eugene Daniel in 1984-85.