- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009


Vernon Davis used a dazzling NFL scouting combine workout to propel himself to the sixth overall pick three years ago, and little brother Vontae hopes to enjoy a similar rise when the Illnois cornerback and D.C. native runs Tuesday.

Vontae won’t go as high as Vernon, but a good workout would solidify him as the second corner in the draft behind Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins.

“I’m hoping I have the same genes [as Vernon],” Vontae joked Sunday morning.

Like his brother, Vontae, 20, left after his junior year. His interception total slipped from four to two in his final season.

“Most teams found out how good I was as a sophomore, and they respected me as a junior,” he said, citing teams’ unwillingness to throw in his direction.

Despite not being challenged, Davis still was able to make 78 tackles, most by a Big Ten cornerback, because of his willingness to be physical in the run game.

Several teams need immediate cornerback help. New Orleans picks 14th, and coach Sean Payton has stated his desire to improve the secondary. Chicago is four spots later, and the Bears were 30th in pass defense last year. And Baltimore at No. 26 released veteran Chris McAlister last week.

The 49ers are aging and unproven at cornerback, but Davis said the challenge of facing Vernon as an opponent would almost be more enjoyable than being teammates.

“I would love to play with my brother, but at the same time, I would love to compete against him,” Vontae said. “We wrestled [as kids], and he would always come out on top. I would love to come out on top in a real game.”

Quarterback picture

As free agency nears, it appears a quarter of the league’s teams have some kind of issue at quarterback.

Arizona: Kurt Warner won’t be taking the desert discount according to various reports, and the Cardinals - facing potential extension talks with Anquan Boldin - have only so much to pay No. 13.

Carolina: Jake Delhomme’s playoff meltdown (five interceptions against Arizona) plus his age (34) should force the Panthers to move on or at least begin grooming his replacement.

Kansas City: Everything is new for the Chiefs, and this would be the perfect spot for Matt Cassel. Tyler Thigpen finished the year as the starter.

Minnesota: The Vikings would be stupid not to pursue Jeff Garcia, recently released by Tampa Bay. But Brad Childress said Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte will compete in camp for the job.

New York Jets: Kellen Clemens, Erik Ainge and Brett Ratliff are on the roster, and it could be a three-way competition to replace Brett Favre.

Tampa Bay: The quarterbacks on the roster are Luke McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson. The Bucs could be interested in Kansas State’s Josh Freeman late in the first round.

Tennessee: Vince Young may get his job back by default if Kerry Collins doesn’t wise up and sign a new contract. Collins is in the perfect situation (doesn’t have to carry the offense), but does he realize it?

San Francisco: Mike Singletary said this week Shaun Hill and Alex Smith will compete for the starting position. But while Hill is more efficient, neither should be expected to lead a team to the playoffs.

Crabtree’s gamble

Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree’s decision to delay surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot is equal parts gutsy and risky. He gave a 16-second statement Sunday and said: “it’s an old injury. I’ve never had any pain in it.”

Crabtree, projected as the top receiver in the draft, will wait until after his late March workout for surgery.

Crabtree may be drafted high, but the surgery will prevent him from participating in rookie camp and minicamp, putting him behind the curve.

They’ll be back

If there was any question former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden wants a job in 2010, note how he’s involved with the NFL Network’s on-site coverage of the combine instead of sitting on a beach. He wants to stay in the loop. Another Super Bowl-winning coach, Mike Shanahan, is expected to resurface, too.

New England coach Bill Belichick said not having Gruden, Shanahan and Brian Billick in the NFL is “hard to believe” and “doesn’t seem right” and “as a coach, it’s a little bit of an empty feeling seeing people like that not in the game. As much as I don’t want to compete against them, they certainly belong here.”

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