Ryan Grigson has struck again.
The rookie general manager of the Indianapolis Colts has quickly gained a reputation around the National Football League as being aggressive and not afraid to pull the trigger when it comes to making deals with other teams.
Such was the case Sunday afternoon as the Colts dealt a 2013 second-round draft pick and a conditional late-round pick next spring for the rights to former Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis. Davis, who played collegiately at Illinois, was a first-round selection by Miami (the 25th overall pick of the first round) in 2009.
A trade of some sort had been hinted at by team owner Jim Irsay since Friday afternoon through a series of messages on Twitter. Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace, Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew and New England wide receiver Wes Welker were being discussed by fans and media as potential subjects of a deal.
The Colts, though, were in dire need for a left cornerback to start opposite veteran Jerraud Powers. Since last year, no one — not Kevin Thomas, Justin King, Cassius Vaughn nor D.J. Johnson — has been able to nail down a job. Indianapolis made a minor deal with the St. Louis Rams late last week for cornerback Josh Gordy, but he has yet to see much practice time.
With Davis, Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano may have found the guy that they were looking for.
“Bottom line, with this move today, is we got better as a football team,” Grigson said in a written statement.
“That is always the goal each day for this organization. From the first time he stepped on the field at Illinois as a freshman or in the National Football League as a rookie, you knew Vontae was a special talent.
“Now he has a chance under coach [Chuck] Pagano and this coaching staff to reach not only his potential as a football player, but as a person as well. That is our collective goal moving forward.”
In 44 games (36 starts) for the Dolphins, Davis — the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis — totaled 142 tackles (126 solo), 32 passes broken up and registered nine interceptions for 124 return yards, including one for a touchdown.
A year ago, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound defensive back led the team with four interceptions and nine passes broken up. He ended the year with 43 tackles (39 solo). His four interceptions ranked tied for fifth in the AFC.
“As we move forward, there’s no sleeping around here, obviously. And to get a guy of his caliber playing the position that he plays, everything that we try to do on a daily basis is with two things in mind — with the team in mind and winning,” Pagano said.
“And Vontae brings a great skill set, a great cover man. He’s big, he’s physical and he can run. Just throwing him into the mix, we feel like we’re getting an outstanding player that has proven himself and played at a high level in the league. [He’ll] obviously make us better.”
Despite his high draft status three years ago, Davis was thought to be expendable in Miami after he reportedly showed up for training camp out of shape earlier this month. There also were indications that he wasn’t meshing with the Dolphins’ new coaching staff and had slipped to the second-team defensive unit.
Despite that background, Pagano defended the move and the cost.
“I think if Vontae were coming out in the 2013 draft, there’s no way he’d be there [when the Colts picked]. A guy of this caliber and with this talent level and skill set … you don’t find guys like this in the second [round],” the Indianapolis coach said.
• Getting acclimated — Pagano doesn’t think it will take the newest Colt very long to learn a new defensive system.
“The great thing about it is [former Dolphins defensive coordinator] Mike Nolan was there a year ago, who has obviously run a familiar system to what we’re running. Coming from Baltimore and San Francisco and [defensive coordinator Greg] Manusky being with Mike, I think he’s going to come in here and find — from a scheme standpoint, a coverage standpoint, a terminology and things like that — there will be a lot of carryover,” the Colts coach explained.
“So we kind of got lucky in that regard also. I felt like we’ll get him going. We got great coaches on that side of the ball and great secondary coaches in [Mike] Gillhamer and Roy Anderson. We’ll get him up to speed.”
• Hasn’t reached potential? — That was the general feeling in Miami when it came to Davis: a big-time talent who hadn’t fully developed into the kind of true cover cornerback scouts had envisioned.
“You see signs and you see flashes. I haven’t watched every snap that he’s played but I know he’s been productive. I know what he was in college and how we evaluated him coming out of Illinois a couple years back,” Pagano said.
“We knew there was a great talent there. We are going to do our very best to see that Vontae succeeds both on the field and off the field, to reach his potential.”
• Offensive line woes — The Colts allowed a couple of quarterback sacks, including a safety, in the loss to the Redskins. Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish were under a heavy rush all afternoon.
“There were times that they did a really good job, both in the run game and pass protection, particularly the pass protection because — give Washington credit — they’ve got an excellent defense, and an excellent front and linebacking corps. After looking at the tape, we knew that they were going to send a bunch of blitzes at us and they did,” Pagano said.
“There were some things, from a communication standpoint and … fundamentals and technique stuff, that we can clean up. It has nothing to do with want and effort and certain things like that. But again, it just comes down to communication and fundamentals and technique. We’ll go back to work starting [today] to get that stuff corrected.”
• Injuries getting worse — Despite early optimism from nose tackle Brandon McKinney, the Colts announced Sunday that the former Baltimore Raven will be lost for the remainder of the season. McKinney was hurt in Saturday’s 30-17 loss to Washington.
“[His] MRI came back and he does have an [anterior cruciate ligament] injury. They’re going to let that thing calm down in the next two to three weeks, which is typical for these types of injuries. Unfortunately for Brandon, it’s probably going to end his season. He’ll end up going to [injured reserve],” Pagano said Sunday.
“[Rookie wide receiver] Griff [Whalen] did re-injure the same foot he had an issue with earlier in camp. It does show a fracture there so he’s going to miss extended time. The doctors are still talking to Griff and deciding what to do there. Other than that, the typical bumps and bruises and nicks and things like that. Two guys, [undrafted rookie wide receiver Jabin] Sambrano and [former Southern Illinois cornerback] Korey [Lindsey] both came in and are being evaluated [Sunday]. I don’t really have an update as far as their head injuries and to what extent those are. They’re being evaluated and we will know more in the coming days.”
Cornerback Jerraud Powers also suffered a sprained knee, but said later that if it had been a regular-season game, he would have been able to return.
“Jerraud’s got a mild sprain. I think like he said, had it been a regular-season game he could have come back. He’s going to be day-to-day as we prepare for [Thursday night’s preseason finale with] Cincinnati. Thankfully, his was just a mild deal and he should be fine, for sure, for [the season opener at] Chicago,” Pagano said.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis was held out of the Washington game as a precautionary measure. Mathis suffered a strained shoulder at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
“I think he’ll practice this week and do some things. Again, that’s a short turnaround heading into the Cincinnati game, so we’ll see. He came in for treatment [Sunday] and we’ll see him [today],” Pagano said. “They’ve got [Sunday off], but came in for treatment and [he] is feeling much better. So I don’t think he should be out. You know, it’s pretty much day-to-day with him, but I think he’s doing fine and should be back real soon.”
• Another new Colt — Backup quarterback Drew Stanton missed the Colts game Saturday after his wife went into labor early that morning.
Stanton and his wife Kristin are now the proud parents of Asher Harrison Stanton, who was born Saturday evening.
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The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
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