Vontae Davis is the Deepak Chopra of the Miami Dolphins.
His Twitter feed is a collection of deep thoughts and motivational nuggets, all signed with the clever hashtag #VontaeCorner (get it?).
Among his latest quips: The truth sometimes hurts, but avoiding the truth always ends up hurting even more.
There’s no ducking this truth: 2011 was not what Davis — or the Dolphins — had envisioned.
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The former first-round pick made waves in training camp by announcing that he and Sean Smith were the “best [cornerback] tandem in the league.”
It didn’t quite work out that way.
The Dolphins ended the year with the NFL’s 25th-ranked pass defense, surrendering nearly 250 yards per game through the air. Tom Brady alone threw for 821 yards and five touchdowns in two regular-season wins over the Fins.
Granted, Davis was injured for much of the year and appeared in just 12 games. But one of those scratches had nothing to do with injury. He was held out of the Chiefs game, reportedly because of a late night on the town and a practice-field altercation with former teammate Brandon Marshall.
Now, as he enters his critical fourth year, when most corners are in their prime, the time for excuses is over. And the 24-year-old knows it.
“If it’s there for me to seize the moment, I’m going to take it,” Davis told The Miami Herald this week while relaxing in the lobby of the team’s training complex. “I feel confident about myself, my abilities. But at the same time, I’ve grown up.
“I was younger,” Davis said, when asked about his “best tandem” boast. “If you asked me now, I wouldn’t say it anymore. Right now, there’s a lot of work to do.”
Should that newfound maturity hold, it could very well turn Davis into the type of shut-down defender the Dolphins envisioned when they took him 25th overall in 2009.
To wit, Darren Woodson — the former Cowboys safety who is now an analyst for ESPN — said all that has stopped Davis from prolonged excellence is focus.
“When you look at him on film, the eye in the sky don’t lie,” Woodson said. “There are times that he has lapses, he falls asleep and gets beat deep. You step back and say, he’s better than that. He needs to play every down like it’s his last.”
Added Eric Davis, the former 49ers corner now with NFL Network: “The athletic ability is there.”
“But to be a top-5 corner, you have to be great at something,” Eric Davis continued. “You see flashes, but I haven’t seen him be great at anything yet.”
Vontae Davis has much to lose — and gain — this year. He’s in the penultimate year of his contract, earning just under a million dollars in base salary. A Pro Bowl season could put him in line for a fat extension. By way of comparison, the Saints recently locked up corner Jabari Greer to a three-year deal worth $23 million. ProFootballFocus.com, which grades every player, rated Greer the NFL’s 29th-best corner that played at least 60 percent of his team’s snaps. The site ranked Davis at No.25, giving him high marks in coverage and pass-rushing ability, but listing him as below average in run defense and penalties.
Davis spent the summer running gassers with his brother Vernon, the standout tight end for the 49ers, and has new coach Joe Philbin pushing his motivational buttons. Philbin is having Davis split work with Richard Marshall early in camp, saying “there’s nothing locked in stone here. We want to look at other guys and create competition everywhere.”
Still, anyone but Davis starting at right corner on opening day would be a shock. After a rough 2011, he’s saying all the right things, both in person and in cyberspace.
“My goal is to become a better person,” Davis said. “I want to be disciplined off the field and disciplined on the field.”