Starters: Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, Darius Butler
Backups: D’Joun Smith, Jalil Brown, Tay Glover-Wright, Daniel Davie, Christopher Milton, Tevin Mitchel, Winston Rose, Darius White, Frankie Williams
If there was a position group that rivaled the injury plague that the quarterbacks suffered last year, it was the cornerbacks. The Colts saw a bunch of corners, Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, D’Joun Smith, Jalil Brown, Tevin Mitchell, and Sheldon Price suffer injuries that kept them out at some point. To replace them, the Colts had to start players that are barely hanging onto the NFL. Guys like Tony Carter, Josh Thomas, Shaun Prater, Tay Glover-Wright, and Eric Patterson.
The best player on the defense is seven-year veteran, Vontae Davis. After trading a second pick to the Dolphins in 2012, Vontae Davis has taken his career to new heights. Like many Colts teammates, Davis had his best year in the 2014-15 season where he ranked as the 6th best player in the league according to PFF. Davis allowed zero touchdowns and a ridiculously low 38.8 passer rating when thrown at that year, which would have been lower if not for a few dropped picks. Davis was not quite as good last year because of injuries and a non-existent pass rush up front that gave receivers all the time in the world to get open. Despite having a down season, Davis still proved that he was one of the league’s few true shutdown corners last season. For example, Davis had the tough task of shadowing the Bills #1 receiver, Sammy Watkins in week 1. Watkins was held to 0 catches on 3 targets. Davis has been the one of the few bright spots and steady presences on this weak defense in the past few years. Under Chuck Pagano’s tutelage and aggressive man coverage defense, Davis has been able to take advantage of his press coverage and tackling near the line of scrimmage, something Giovanni Bernard won’t forget for a long time.
Greg Toler’s contract is finally up and Colts fans everywhere are rejoicing. Three years of constantly being beat badly in coverage was capped off by a 2015-16 campaign that saw him rank 113th out of 119 corners according to PFF. The Colts have replaced Toler with a much more competent Patrick Robinson. He was the 30th best cornerback, but more impressively, he was the second best cornerback in the slot with the Chargers last season. However, the Colts have plans to line up Robinson outside and across from Vontae Davis. Hopefully, Robinson proves to be a massive upgrade over Toler and provides a second lockdown presence that the Colts haven’t had for a longtime.
Darius Butler was one of the better slot corners for a few years, but his play declined like many of his teammates’ in a down year for the Colts. Butler’s job is probably not in jeopardy despite Butler having the worst season of his career paired with the Colts adding the second best slot cornerback in the league.
D’Joun Smith is realistically the only one who could compete for a top three corner spot right now. There isn’t much game tape of this 2015 third rounder because he only played 20 snaps before being placed on the IR with a knee injury. He split his preseason snaps playing inside and out, so he has some experience both ways. Heading into the season, he will probably be the dime corner and fill in for any of the top three corners that have to come out for any reason.
Jalil Brown was a serviceable backup last year and received a lot more minutes than fans would hope because of many injuries. He’s probably the front runner as the fifth cornerback on the roster. Tay Glover-Wright filled in the last couple of weeks, didn’t make much of an impact. Tevin Mitchel signed as an UDFA last year and was put on the IR before the season started. Daniel Davie is an UDFA from the University of Nebraska. Despite having a bad senior season compared to his junior season, a great showing at his pro day earned him a spot on the Colts 90-man roster. Christopher Milton is an UDFA from Georgia Tech. Milton is a tremendous athlete with a 4.35 40-yard dash, 10’6″ broad jump and a 37″ vertical. This showed up on the field, especially on special teams where he blocked seven kicks during his college career. Winston Rose is an UDFA from New Mexico State University. He had an impressive season in 2014 when he tallied five interceptions. Darius White is an UDFA from the University of California, Berkeley. His unorthodox career path has seen him at community college and playing wide receiver before finding his home at cornerback. Frankie Williams is an UDFA from Purdue University. In four seasons of play, Williams logged 227 tackles and 10 interceptions.
At this point, it seems like four cornerback spots are taken. Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, Darius Butler, and D’Joun Smith are locks for making the final roster. Jalil Brown probably has the best chance at making the team as the fifth corner because he got significant playing time last year. If the Colts choose to carry a sixth cornerback, it looks like no one in the rest of the group has an edge over anyone right now. Special teams is probably the determining factor, so whoever can impress as a gunner, kick-blocker, or anywhere else outside of cornerback will probably win the last spot.