Alterraun Verner: Approximating Revis

| April 10, 2014

alterraun-vernerValue is often a fluctuating concept within the NFL. While we can all agree that quarterback is the league’s most important, and therefore the most valuable, component on a 53-man roster the 32 teams take a wide variety of approaches to the value of the remaining parts.

Quarterbacks influence the game more than any of the other players, regardless of the offense that they are placed in. Elite passers can paper over almost any cracks and still drag a team into the playoffs. On the flipside, even the most talented rosters in the league struggle to contend against the better teams if they don’t have a viable quarterback.

For other positions the impact any single player can have is often dictated and limited by scheme. Darrelle Revis was the focal point of the Rex Ryan defense in New York as they built that system around him and he allowed them to do everything else they did in coverage.

The Bucs traded their first round pick a year ago and a conditional pick that became the 104th overall selection (early in the fourth round) this year for Revis, intending to do something similar in Tampa Bay. After a year of Revis getting back to full speed following a knee injury, the franchise cleaned house and a new regime came in with a completely different schematic approach to the game. Revis went from being a prized asset worth $16 million in the old defense to an overpriced luxury in Lovie Smith’s zone based scheme.

Scheming

While it’s certainly true that a corner can have a huge impact in a Lovie Smith defense (see Tillman, Charles), Smith simply doesn’t value that impact at the dollar-figure Revis was due. He also expects to be able to approach a similar production level with other players, and knows he would, to a degree, be wasting the talents that make Revis so valuable in other schemes.

revis-insetThere’s no doubt that Revis could excel in the new Bucs defense. Last season — returning from a major knee injury and some way short of 100% — he was PFF’s top graded corner overall, in a scheme that ended up not dissimilar to the one that will be installed this offseason.

Unlike many top cover corners recently, Revis has always played the run well and has been a very physical presence. He is in many ways the perfect zone corner for that defense, but because the scheme is far less flexible than some man-coverage schemes it doesn’t value corners as highly.

The Jets would use Revis to track an opponent’s best receiver wherever he lined up. Teams were forced to sacrifice their best weapon in the passing game (which they hate doing) if they wanted to avoid throwing at Revis.

In a zone scheme it is far less likely that he would be tracking receivers, because depending on the coverage he will be passing the guy off to another zone anyway. If you want to avoid Revis in that scheme just diagnose the coverage and wait until the receiver running the route clears Revis’ zone.

The value placed on the impact of a corner in that type of scheme is significantly lower than the money Revis was due and so the Bucs quite correctly cut him loose. It isn’t that he couldn’t do it. It’s that they could get someone who could do it more or less as well for less than half the price, say the $6.5 million per year that they gave to Alterraun Verner.

Approximating Revis

Verner isn’t Revis in that he isn’t the kind of shutdown corner Revis can be in a scheme that employs a lot of man coverage. However, in a zone-heavy scheme he is a pretty close approximation. With both players playing a mix of man and zone in 2013 Verner actually allowed a lower percentage of targets into his coverage to be caught, allowed half as many touchdowns and broke up more than twice as many passes.

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When you look at how often each was in coverage and thrown at, only Revis, Richard Sherman and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were in coverage for more snaps than Verner between each catch surrendered.

Verner excels in the kind of scheme that Lovie Smith will be employing in Tampa Bay and costs a fraction of the money that Revis was due. The difference between the two players within that scheme is negligible. Though he might not hold up if asked to lock down a receiver all day in man coverage, Verner is comfortable, aggressive and very capable.

Take this play against the Seahawks in Week 6:

Verner

The Seahawks try and convert a 3rd-and-3 by targeting Verner on a slant route intended for Golden Tate. Verner reads Tate’s route well and drives hard on the slant, arriving in time to break it up and force a punt. This was the second time in the game that the Seahawks went to that well and both times Verner rejected it with a pass defensed.

2014-04-09_15-22-39

This wasn’t a rare occurrence either. No other corner broke up more passes than the 19 Verner was able to either pick off or get his hands to in defending them. Part of the job description for a corner in Lovie Smith’s defense is to make plays on the ball and that is an area where Verner might actually have the beating of Revis.

Value Right Now

When you consider the trade cost of acquiring Revis in the first place, cutting him after a season essentially serving as his rehab program seems crazy. Yet the new regime in Tampa Bay is right to ignore that aspect. All they are concerned about is the value of Revis right now within Lovie Smith’s defense. In that aspect Revis just isn’t worth the money that he is in another scheme, and for a fraction of the cost they were able to secure a player who can do the same kind of job.

Alterraun Verner isn’t close to the player Darrelle Revis is in the abstract, but within the specific scheme the Bucs are running in 2014 and beyond he is a near facsimile. It might seem like a cheap move, but the Bucs saved around $10 million a year without noticeably downgrading at the position within their defense. Like it or not, that’s smart.

 

Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam 

Comments (16)

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  1. HumblyConceited says:

    c’mon son everybody know Russell Wilson is shit at passing, lets see what happens when he has to face Cam, Ryan, and Brees 6 games outta the year

    • Thomas Holm says:

      I really hope you’re kidding. You seriously think Cam is a better passer than Wilson?

      • HumblyConceited says:

        You must be retarded or don’t watch football. Russell Wilson isn’t even a mediocre QB. He has been over 300 yards once in his career but usually throws for 200 yards maybe and a td every other game

        • Thomas Holm says:

          Im not even gonna argue with you. This is a lost cause.

        • guest says:

          Oh lord. Your qb evaluation needs help. 1st you don’t seem to understand how the Seattle offense works. Wilson is way more accurate than Cam Newton.

          • HumblyConceited says:

            Seattle’s offense works because Beast Mode carries them wtf are you stupid or dumb? Russell Wilson has not once been the reason the Seahawks have beaten a team. It’s always the defense or running game. They would play to the same exact level if they swapped Wilson for just about any other starting QB in the league. Do you research and get back to me

        • Jack Casey says:

          The only way humbly conceited could not be considered a complete moron is if he forgot to put the word “fantasy” before QB and after mediocre.

    • Ben says:

      Yeah, ask the Saints how good a passer he is (310 yards, three TDs) or the other teams he had in a 6 game streak with two or more TDs per game. Like the Cardinals, or the Falcons.

    • Tom Weissmann says:

      Eh well I won’t be worried when Cam is throwing the ball to the likes of Avant or whoever else they have at receiver or Ryan when teams don’t have to worry about Gonzo in the middle of the field anymore. I’m sure Verner will be more than capable of handling himself in Tampa. This defense is gonna be pretty damn scary next year for the rest of the division.

  2. Stankylegs says:

    Sam, I enjoy the statistical breakdowns!
    One question, though: how much of a corner’s statistics — regardless of scheme — is dependent upon the team’s front seven, other players around him? How much should we consider that when comparing Verner and Revis, and what’s best for the Bucs?

  3. WordsOfWisdom82 says:

    Good analysis. On the flip side, the Cheatriots are going to use Revis like the Jets did – isolate him on the opponent’s best WR.

    • babalawo49 says:

      u r a jealous hater …the patriots are better than your team

      • Jack Casey says:

        Babalawo49 …. Please stop even replying to these people. The Patriots record speaks for itself. Don’t even give these trolls the satisfaction.

  4. Mychal says:

    How was revis be twice as good as verner, if he allowed more rec, more TDs and a worse QB rating against and had half as many PBUs, not talking stats but from a production stand point

    • Jack Casey says:

      We’ll first it’s four tds to two tds…. Not like 10 to 5. You can say on passes thrown to each players target that Verners production see better this year. But also look that Revis was targeted less in terms of % of receptions to snaps. If you look at the top CBs rated by PFF you’ll see a few with better coverage grades that Revis… But his run defense grade was drastically better than them. It also takes into consideration penalties.

  5. crayhopper says:

    Dominik overpaid for almost every player he acquired which is why the Bucs were so bad during his reign. That’s why he is no longer running the team.