Tampa Bay Gets Their Man: Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In case you weren’t aware by now, the NFL is never on downtime, and it was Sunday afternoon that the Revis trade was finally kicked into high gear and eventually completed with the Buccaneers sending a first round pick in the upcoming draft, as well as a conditional fourth round pick in the 2014 draft (that can become a third) to the Jets for the game’s best cornerback.
For the Jets it is a respectable if modest haul for a player of this ability that in truth looks to speak volumes about the state of the franchise at the moment and that of the contract that was won during the last holdout from Revis and was weighing heavily.
The Jets will look to use the picks to rebuild a team that looks ever more devoid of talent, and though they will be on the hook for a significant portion of dead money against the 2013 salary cap, they can at least be free of the deal entirely in 12 months time.
The more interesting question is what did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade for exactly? What can Revis bring to the team?
We tweeted last night that over his last three healthy seasons Revis has averaged a PFF grade of +23.6, while the best corner on the Tampa roster before the trade hadn’t topped +3.8 in 2012.
But what else do we know about Revis? He is the game’s top cover corner, with the man-coverage ability to take the best receiver in an offense out of the game. The Jets used him to track the opposition’s biggest threat wherever he lined up, something very few corners do, including when that receiver lined up in the slot.
This forces opposing offenses into a choice: forget their best receiver entirely or deliberately throw into the coverage of Revis, willfully targeting the league’s best corner. Most coaches hate to accept that their best weapon is no longer a viable option, so Revis has been targeted an average of 93 times in each of his last three healthy seasons.
Those are targets that aren’t going in the direction of potentially easier targets and plays which the defense will count as a win for them.
Revis also has the ability to be put out on his own with no help. “Revis Island” came about because the Jets would regularly isolate Revis on an island to the open side of the field, leaving him to cover essentially half of the field by himself one on one with a receiver. Against most defensive backs this would be a huge advantage for the offense, but Revis is so good at shadowing receivers, reading their movements and locking them down in coverage that the defense never had to worry about it.
That meant that the team could then roll the safety to the other side of the field and use 10 other defenders to concentrate on shutting down everything else the offense has to throw at them. Revis gives a defense the ability to cheat towards covering other things, safe in the knowledge that they can isolate him in as much space as they want without the advantage swinging to the receiver and quarterback.
Last year Tampa Bay paid Eric Wright significant money in free agency to sign and the team still had one of the league’s poorest pass defenses. Wright allowed 62.5 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed in 2012 and each of the team’s top three corners allowed more than 61 percent of their targets to be caught. Targeting any of the team’s top three corners yielded a passer rating of over 90. Over his past three healthy seasons Revis has allowed an average of just 44.6 percent of targets to be caught, and quarterbacks throwing at him have averaged a passer rating in the 40’s.
Revis is the league’s most impressive shutdown corner, and he can do it from any corner position on the field. His skills have allowed the Jets to adjust their defense entirely to take advantage of his abilities and help out other players with alignments and shifts they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get away with.
There is no guarantee that Revis returns to his best play after a torn ACL, but the recent history of players recovering from similar injuries in the NFL is good, with Adrian Peterson just the latest in a long list to have a swift recovery and seamless return.
Even if Tampa Bay does nothing other than line Revis up as a conventional cornerback and let him play ball they should have a massive upgrade for their secondary, but Revis also brings with him the ability for them to change things schematically and improve more than the addition of a top corner.
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