Darrelle Revis: Overlooked?

| May 11, 2011

Among all the hullabaloo (who knew that was a real word) over a certain quarterback ranking so low, there was another mini controversy brewing: somehow Darrelle Revis didn’t make the list.
 
Unlike my follow up on Tom Brady, the Revis response was a little trickier. You see, I started to doubt myself a little. Was I too harsh on Revis? Was I counting what I’d come to expect from him against him?
 
Let me open by saying that it was a travesty that he didn’t win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009. You probably won’t find a better season for a cornerback than what Revis had that year. Outside of perhaps Nnamdi Asomugha, there isn’t another player in the league capable of manning up with a team’s top receiver, shutting them down, and scaring quarterbacks the way he does.
 
But even the most ardent Revis fan would have to admit his 2010 year wasn’t up to the level of his remarkable third season. There are a number of reasons for it, stemming from the offseason where he held out for a contract that matched his talents. Then, when he got back, he had the hamstring injury which produced a series of un-Revis-like performances and more missed time. Let’s take a brief look at his season to see if questions about my sanity are founded, or foolish.
 

What the numbers say

Let’s start by looking at where Revis ranks on the metrics side. Cornerback numbers aren’t the most reliable of tools since there’s a lot only the teams have access to seeing, but they do add some context to an argument. So let’s see what spot Revis ranks out of the 100 cornerbacks who played the most snaps. Below are Revis’ ranks:
 

Completion Percentage Allowed – 1st

Yards Per Catch Allowed – 84th

Yards Per Attempt Allowed – 13th

Touchdowns Per Attempt – 49th

Thrown At Per Time In Coverage – 5th

Receptions Allowed Per Time In Coverage – 3rd

Pass Break-ups & INTs – 16th

QB Rating Against – 28th

 

A real mixed bag, but again not conclusive in any respect. Antoine Winfield, for example, I always expect to have a lower Yards Per Catch because he moves into the slot, but it also means he’s going to allow more catches. So all of these need to be taken with a pinch of salt – although, remarkably, Nnamdi Asomugha finished atop three categories, as did Asante Samuel. Still, worth throwing it in so that people can see what the deal is on this front. Now back to looking at his season.
 

Holding Out

In this age of the lockout with the possibility of a severely limited off season, we should all look at Darrelle Revis as an example for the impact of it. In 2009, Revis was practically untouchable, and per Pro Football Focus grading, earned a +34.6 in coverage. Putting that into perspective, the next best in 2009 was Charles Woodson (+19.4) and the best in 2010 was Tramon Williams (+14.4), including post season numbers.
 
But with no offseason behind him, Revis struggled in the season opener. Not like Alphonso Smith against the Patriots struggled, but enough to give up a penalty and let a wide open Le’Ron McClain get away from him (only for Joe Flacco to overthrow the receiver). The kind of plays you just don’t associate with Revis.
 
A week later he was in shot while Randy Moss ran past him for a big touchdown, after already getting beat by Moss for a first down, and by Wes Welker who dropped the ball (make of it what you will but those two times he got beat were on hitch routes). It was a terrible start to the season and it got worse as his hamstring went with Moss hauling in a spectacular, if needless, one handed grab.
 

Hamstrung

So Revis missed the next two games. That doesn’t need to be a big issue (I had Logan Mankins in my top 101 after all), but when he returned we can only speculate how much the injury was still bothering him. Because while the number was 24, and the jersey read Revis, it wasn’t the Jet we’d all come to know, admire and if you’re a receiver, fear.
 
The Vikings game was as bad as we’ve ever seen the former Pittsburgh Panther. Beaten for a touchdown by Percy Harvin, he even gave up a first down to Greg Lewis. Heck, if it wasn’t for the inaccuracy of Brett Favre it could have been worse. It was the lowest grade we’d ever given to Revis, and one of only seven occasions, up until that point, where he had a negative grade in coverage (only two of which had been “In the Red” -1.0 or worse grades).
 

Finding his form

A week later, Revis responded with a much stronger performance, breaking up a few passes. But there was still some un-Revis-like play as he gave up a touchdown, and got beaten for first downs on two occasions by Jabar Gaffney.
 
Still there was enough promise in there to think Revis was finding his form. In the next game, he seemed back to his best, giving up a lone first down to Greg Jennings as the Packers opted to target Drew Coleman and Antonio Cromartie instead. Staying in the NFC North, he did a good job on Calvin Johnson (though he did get beat a couple of times by him), including a breathtakingly good pass deflection on a deep pass intended for the larger Johnson.
 
It was probably his best performance of the season up until that point, and he followed it up with a solid game against Cleveland, allowing only one completion. It was looking like Revis had put his slow start to the year behind him, but then the Texans came to town and Revis had some issues.
 
In coverage, he had a mixed day with two pass deflections, but gave up two first downs (one of which was simply ignoring his coverage responsibilities) and got beat deep by Kevin Walter for what would have been a huge completion, only for Walter to drop it.
 

Re-Opening The Island

It was the kind of play we’re not use to seeing from Revis and it was the kind of play we were not going to see again from him in 2010. Over the remainder of the season, he gave up just seven receptions, and was superb in Weeks 14 through 16. If the season was starting from the Miami game, Revis would likely have been a choice for Defensive Player of the Year, he was that good.
 
Then there are the playoffs, and some performances so good that the 2009 version of Revis would be impressed. Just the one reception given up against Indianapolis. Two pass deflections in leading the Jets’ coverage unit in blanketing New England. Not a single pass allowed against Pittsburgh. While Tramon Williams was making highlight reel plays, Revis was shutting people down. It was as good as you’re likely to see.
 
That’s the Revis we all know. His late season, and post season play matching the amazing performances that were his routine in 2009. But, between that awesome 2009 (where he would have been my top player at any position for the year) and the finish to 2010, he played hurt, and it impacted his performance. He finished the regular season with the third highest yards per catch allowed average at 16.8 (by comparison Asante Samuel and Antoine Winfield allowed less than 8 yards per catch).
 
So maybe his late season play was enough to push him onto the list. Or maybe missing three games, having three poor games and a number of average ones means this year he misses out.
 
At the end of day, regardless of his placing on the list or not, it doesn’t change the fact Revis is one of the best players in the NFL. If I’m lucky enough to get to do this list next year I’d imagine a healthy Revis working his way into the top five. But it does a disservice to all to make out like he was superb all year just because he finished the year that way, and just because we’ve come to expect it from him.
 
He’s better than that.
 
 

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