When the AP 1st Team All-Pros were announced last week, Broncos Country was rightfully angered at the snub of several Broncos players--chief among them Chris Harris Jr. It was the name recognition that comes along with "Revis" and "Sherman" that left the 2nd Team All-Pro on the outside looking in. Just as Harris has been over looked all season, so has Colts corner Vontae Davis.
Know his Role
Vontae's target distribution paints the picture of a corner who like Richard Sherman plays one side of the formation exclusively. In all but one game this season Davis lined up at the right CB position. Unlike Chris Harris Jr., he will not be charged with coverage responsibilities in the slot, nor will he be asked to shadow Demaryius Thomas like Darrelle Revis.
PFF tracks target by receiver for each defensive back each and every game. I've compiled Vontae Davis' numbers (through the regular season) to get an idea of who he's been asked to cover.
Vontae Davis broken down by type of receiver covered (other is a backup). pic.twitter.com/MEjMccbgux— Eatin' Greedy (@Bronco_Mike251) January 6, 2015
- Davis has covered the #1 receiver on just about 20% of his targets. He's allowed just 42.9% of those targets to be completed for 109 yards (7.8 yards per target).
- The majority of his targets have come against the opposing teams' #2 WR. Here he has shut things down allowing just 32.8% of those targets to be completed for 161 yards and a stellar 4.7 yards per target average.
Going into Sunday's matchup, you can guarantee that most of his targets are going to come against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders--depending on how the Broncos and Manning decide to set the formation pre-snap.
Davis has already faced the Broncos twice in the past two seasons. How has he fared against our receiving corps?
In week 1, Davis was targeted 5 times. He allowed just one reception for five yards on a quick WR screen to Emmanuel Sanders.
Going back to last season, he was targeted 8 times with 3 receptions for 12 yards.
That's two full games against the vaunted Denver passing attack and he's allowed just 17 yards on 4 receptions.
What you're going to see most of the time from Vontae is press-man coverage. On this play, he gains inside leverage on Demaryius Thomas. He is in perfect position to intercept the pass but Demaryius leaps over his shoulder to prevent the pick. Something I've noticed consistently is Davis' ability to turn and run with just about any receiver. He will be physical at the line of scrimmage, and more often than not will be in perfect position.
All great corners have impeccable technique. Though this example comes from "off" coverage, notice how easy it is for Vontae to flip his hips and continue running with the receiver downfield. He does not bite on the initial move to the outside because he doesn't need to. He is in the right position to defend the sideline throw AND turn upfield on the 'GO'.
How many times did Broncos Country witness Champ Bailey come up and make a nice tackle near the LOS? Davis is a tenacious tackler who isn't afraid to get some contact. He does a nice job of avoiding the block, then turns upfield to take out the checkdown.
In the open field, the Broncos receivers will have to be careful with the football. Though he is beaten on this play on a quick slant, Davis hustles to the receiver and forces a turnover.
Here's another great example of reading the receiver and carrying him deep. This time, the Colts dial up more of a zone look. Vontae uses the boundary as his help over the top. Notice how he takes away the inside of the field. That's because there is no help for him there.
Vontae Davis is going to be a tough assignment for our receiving corps. All season he allowed just 4 passes of 20 or more yards (with a long of 30). In comparison, Darrelle Revis allowed twice as many big plays. Though the Colts do not use him like Revis, Vontae is more than capable of taking away the #1.
To beat him, the Broncos are going to want to move players around and avoid him. Throws like back-shoulder fades or jump balls deep down the field are relatively safe throws (so long as the quarterback reads the leverage and places the ball accordingly). But when he is in press-man, this matchup is very difficult to beat. The Broncos need to be prepared to use some two-route concepts that create some natural (and legal) picks, as well as routes that will remove Davis from the intended target. Run Davis deep only to have a medium out or in cut from Welker or Sanders.
If Thomas and Sanders do not play a physical game, their impact will be minimal.