We’re eight weeks into the season and Darelle Revis is doing something pretty special. The level of play he’s returned to after a 2010 season slowed by early injury is causing people to draw legitimate comparisons to Deion Sanders in his prime.
To this point, Revis has been thrown at 33 times. He has allowed 10 receptions. He has yet to give up a touchdown, though he has scored one of his own. Opposing quarterbacks are just as likely to have the ball picked (four times) or batted down (another six times) as they are to have it caught by their intended receiver when they challenge Revis’ coverage. Picking on Revis this season is yielding a QB rating of just 2.9. Yes, 2.9. The next best mark among starting corners is the 39.4 of the Panthers’ Chris Gamble and there are only three players under 50.
Eight of the 10 completions he has allowed came in two games, with Brandon Marshall responsible for half of them. In three games this season Revis hasn’t given up a catch at all and in two more he has allowed just one. Revis’ best five games account for just two catches for 19 yards from 13 targets.
He is raising the bar for the position and giving renewed spirit to the phrase ‘shutdown corner’, something only recently thought to be extinct as a species. Following that theme, much like on the wildlife shows when something extraordinary is captured on film and you have to take a closer look, with Revis allowing just these 10 receptions – an amazingly manageable number for a midseason piece like this – we’re going to go through each in turn.
Note: We have discussed the 73-yard reception to Wes Welker before and it will not feature below. Though Revis definitely made a mess of the play, the Jets were in quarters coverage and the ball was caught in Eric Smith’s zone, not that of Revis, so he gets primary coverage on the reception.
DAL @ NYJ | 1st Q, 12:02 | 3rd-and-4
Analysis: The Cowboys take advantage of crossing their receivers causing Kyle Wilson to obstruct Revis on Wilson’s way through to cover Jason Witten in the flat. Kevin Ogletree makes his break inside at the first down marker and the ball is delivered on time. Revis makes the hit immediately after the catch but the Cowboys are given forward progress to pick up the first down.
Analysis: This is the type of play Revis thrives on more often than not. The Jets blitz off his side leaving him locked-up in man coverage with Dez Bryant. Revis gets good position off the line and is in close coverage down the sideline. Romo delivers the pass early and by the time Revis turns his head to locate the football it’s too late for him to adjust to the back-shoulder throw. Bryant has seen it earlier and goes up to make the catch as Revis is unable to turn and adjust to prevent the catch. Revis makes the tackle for no additional yards. This type of back shoulder throw is practically impossible to prevent as a corner in press-man coverage if the timing and position of the throw is right.
Analysis: The Jets again blitz off Revis’ side of the line leaving him in singled on the edge. He aligns in press-man coverage over Kevin Ogletree, shaded inside to take away the slant. Ogletree gives him a hard fake step outside which causes Revis to open his hips a fraction too far in the wrong direction; an error from which he cannot regain position before the ball is thrown. Ogletree makes the catch for the first down and is tackled immediately by the trailing Revis.
Analysis: Revis was covering Wes Welker from the slot in man coverage. The Patriots were facing a third down play with the clock winding down before half time and elected to send Wes Welker on a quick out route to try and move the chains. Welker sets up to run a route inside before his jump-cut to the outside. Revis doesn’t bite on the inside move and is in close coverage with Welker, having actually undercut the route, but a perfectly floated throw from Tom Brady fits the ball over Revis and into a window to pick up the first down.
Analysis: Revis and Marshall would be matched-up for most of this game, with Miami throwing 14 balls towards the pairing. Revis allowed five completions and this is one of them. On a slant pattern Marshall elects to beat Revis not with quickness or a finesse move but by driving into him and then pushing off as he breaks inside. Revis is rocked onto his heels and can’t recover in time to prevent the catch, but does tackle Marshall immediately after it and before the first down marker despite a strong attempt at a stiff arm.
Analysis: Brandon Marshall gave Revis by far his toughest test of the season, and this play is a great example of what Marshall brings that most other receivers can’t – the ability to physically match and overpower Revis. Revis is again in press-man coverage on the outside and Marshall engages physically immediately, and fakes moves outside, then in, before breaking back outside again and heading downfield. Revis does an excellent job of mirroring the receiver and is in good position to prevent the deep ball having stacked Marshall, but the ball thrown is a back-shoulder pass and Revis is second to adjust to it. Marshall makes the catch and is tackled by Revis after a few more yards.
Analysis: Man coverage again, and again Marshall and Revis tussle at the line before Marshall releases outside down the sideline. Matt Moore stares down his receiver from the snap and eventually hits him on a comeback route. This play looks as if it was intended to go deep, but Marshall did an excellent job of changing to a comeback after Revis was in excellent position to defend the deep pass. Marshall breaks off his route and heads back towards the line of scrimmage for nearly 5 yards to ensure enough separation to make the catch.
Analysis: This time Marshall and Revis are facing off from the slot. It remains man coverage, and the two remain physical in the route. Marshall drives Revis up field before disengaging and breaking across the field. Revis recognizes the break and bursts to undercut the route, diving to try and deflect the pass. Matt Moore fits the ball just over the outstretched fingertips of the Jets’ corner into a tight window and Marshall makes the grab before taking a hit from the safety.
Analysis: This play was arguably the nicest work from Marshall in terms of pure route running. Again the two are matched up in press-man coverage on the outside and again Marshall releases hard to the outside. This time he sinks his hips and breaks back towards the quarterback and inside, catching the pass just four-yards down field but with enough separation that a quick spin to the outside immediately after catching it beats the diving attempt at a tackle from Revis. This is the first time in this game – and of the catches Revis allowed this season – where he was beaten soundly by anything other than a back shoulder throw.
Analysis: Revis was matched up on Vincent Jackson for much of this game, and the Chargers did test the matchup, throwing at Jackson five times. Revis allowed just this catch. This is an interesting one because it’s the first catch of the 10 that wasn’t in man coverage, or at least certainly not press-man. It is possible Revis is playing an extremely loose off-man coverage, but unlikely because of his alignment and that of the other coverage defenders. Revis and Eric Smith are playing Cover-4 on their side of the field and Revis allows Jackson to attack his leverage too much without adjusting. (Revis lines up in outside leverage, i.e. outside the receiver, showing him the middle of the field but guarding his boundary. Jackson drives at Revis’ outside shoulder, which takes away the positional advantage Revis has before the snap.) By the time Jackson makes his break to the outside, Revis has lost his leverage and ends up turning around the wrong way before making the tackle after the reception.
Those are the 10 catches Revis has allowed in 2011. None of them went for longer than 26 yards. On only one was he beaten badly enough that he did not make the tackle instantly after the catch or very quickly after it, and only one of the receptions was made when Revis was not in press-man coverage.
It becomes clear from these throws that Revis is exceptionally difficult to beat over the top. He is extremely good at redirecting receivers at the line of scrimmage and stacking them down the sideline, forcing quarterbacks to make a perfect throw in order to get the ball in. The only successful throws are on back shoulder passes down the sideline, which are extremely difficult for any corner playing press-man coverage to stop, but which do run the risk of being picked-off if the corner does get his head around early enough.
If Revis maintains this kind of performance over the rest of the season, we may be witnessing something that sails right past special and lodges itself firmly in all-time greatness.