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Thursday, September 17, 2009
Manning could feast on Dolphins rookie CBs



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


The plan for Miami Dolphins rookie cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis is for them to split time.

Before Monday night's game is over, they could have splitting headaches.

The Dolphins will host the Indianapolis Colts in Land Shark Stadium. As if a home debut and the big "Monday Night Football" stage won't be enough to have their brains swimming, Smith and Davis will be in Peyton Manning's cross hairs.
Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
Vontae Davis will likely be tested early and often by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

"I think he will be looking there," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said at his Thursday news conference. "Watching Peyton over the years, I don’t think he is going to force the ball any place. He is going to do exactly what the defense dictates and not force the ball and try to limit turnovers and do those kinds of things for his football team.

"That being said, we are not na´ve. Our guys know that. There are going to be times in the game where he is going to look over there and try to pick on them."

Manning was diplomatic when asked Thursday about Miami's rookie cornerbacks.

"You see a lot of ability in both guys," Manning said. "It will take accurate throws. It will take good routes and see how they match up.

"There is still some of that unknown. You prepare for some things you may get, but adjust to certain things once the game actually arrives."

Smith and Davis each saw over 30 plays opposite left cornerback Will Allen in Sunday's 19-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

Smith played the first two series, making him the first Dolphins rookie cornerback in 29 years to start on opening day.

Sparano noted "a couple technical errors" out of Smith and Davis on Sunday. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went deep to Roddy White on the opening drive. White beat Smith with a double move, but Ryan's pass was underthrown and fell incomplete.

"The ball was going to go down the field early in that game," Sparano said, "and I don't know what the play was, but I don’t think it was no more than six, seven plays into the game where they took the shot at Sean down the field."

Sparano told reporters Wednesday that he wanted to keep divvying up their time because he wants to keep both of them involved at right cornerback.

The rookies performed well enough through training camp and in preseason games that the Dolphins felt comfortable in releasing veteran free agent Eric Green.

But neither Smith nor Davis has faced anybody like Manning before.

In the three seasons Smith played at Utah, the Mountain West Conference produced two drafted quarterbacks. BYU's John Beck and San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell both already have been cut.

Davis faced only a slightly higher degree of quarterback. The only ones drafted out of the Big Ten during Davis' time at Illinois were Drew Stanton, Troy Smith, Chad Henne and Curtis Painter.

"This is going to be the biggest challenge of their whole career, going against a guy that doesn't miss," Dolphins safety Gibril Wilson said in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel story. "We got away with a couple last week.

"Peyton's not going to miss those. We're going to have to really be aware of what the matchup situations are and where everybody is on the field at all times."