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How valuable was Darrelle Revis? There is plenty of anecdotal evidence. The film from last season was pretty conclusive. Let's take a statistical look, though. We'll use the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010. Our friends from the website Football Outsiders used some incredibly detailed statistical evidence to preview the upcoming season. Their chapter for the Jets is available for free online. The entire book is available on Amazon.com. They were kind enough to allow me to use the numbers they provided. Can the numbers in the chapter totally provide a player's value? No, but they can certainly illuminate things.
The first thing that sticks out is the Jets had their number one corner, Revis, on the other team's top receiver 68% of the time in 2009. Allow me to provide a little perspective. That is more than any other team. Only fourteen teams had their top corner on the other team's top wideout even half the time. That's less than half the league. Green Bay did it with "Defensive Player of the Year" Charles Woodson 38% of the time. The Jets did it on more than two out of every three plays. It was by design. Revis followed his man around. The Jets maximized his value that way. Most teams give their corners either the left or the right side of the field. It makes it easy for the other team to create favorable matchups. The Jets using Revis in that way took away the other team's top weapon. There were few mismatches of elite receivers. I have read some people claim Revis did not really match up with other top receivers as much as advertised. The numbers don't lie. He did.
Revis allowed 3.5 yards per Adjusted Pass at him according to the Outsiders. It is a way of grading corners on a curve. They adjust the actual stats based on the quality of the receiver. That is less than half of the league average of 7.5 yards. Teams were not having any success throwing his way. They also note that he was in the top five of targeted throws. That is significant. It means he either consistently baited throws, or teams were (very unsuccessfully) forcing the ball to their top wideouts because they were such focal points in the offense (and Revis was taking them away). Either way, that is significant. Revis was destroying entire plays. Guys weren't going through progressions and potentially making big plays elsewhere. The ball was coming his way, and teams were walking away with nothing. Compare that to a guy like Nnamdi Asomugha, who was barely targeted. On paper it sounds better to not have any balls come in one's direction, but there are four other options on passing plays. Asomugha isn't totally to blame. I always felt part of the reason he never faced any throws was that quarterbacks felt no need to take a risk targeting him when the lack of talent everywhere else of the field produced favorable matchups. Even so, this is an indication of why Revis had so much value.
Another claim I made quite frequently was that Revis single handedly shut down opposing receivers and freed up men to roll coverage elsewhere and blitz. Some have called that into question. The Outsiders don't have a definitive answer in their preview. They do come to the same conclusion, though, having dissected all available film:
With Revis Island taking up one side of the field, the remaining members of the secondary were able to congregate on the other side and stifle the throwing lanes for quarterbacks; quarterbacks were often forced to throw desperation passes over the top
Looking a little deeper, one can see evidence of this effect. The writers on the site rely heavily on a stat called DVOA. It essentially breaks down all plays and players, breaks down their performances, factors in the quality of the opponent, and offers performance against league average. Not only were the Jets the best in the league against opposing number one receivers. Revis again covered them 68% of the time. They were also sixth best against number two receivers. Do you really think Lito Sheppard was one of the top six number two corners in the league? They were third against receivers third and below on opposing depth charts. Ditto Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman. They were fourth against tight ends. Remember how bad the Jets were against tight ends in 2008 (29th)? Replacing Eric Barton and Abram Elam with Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard surely helped, but something bigger was at play. One could argue the pass rush was better, which was true. Even so, who was the elite pass rusher? The best one, Calvin Pace, wasn't on the field for games against high powered passing attacks like the Texans, Patriots, and Saints.
What am I trying to prove here? Will the Jets have a bad defense without Revis? I doubt that will be the case. Rex Ryan is a great defensive coach. He knows how to scheme around the talents of his team. The Ravens had a top defense with him even when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were on the sidelines. Antonio Cromartie probably has more physical ability than Revis. He has been nowhere near as consistent, but it is not out of the question that he steps up and plays at an elite level in a scheme that suits his talents. We cannot bury our heads in the sand, however, and pretend that life without Revis would be no huge loss. That's why I speak about it so often. The ability to overcome a huge loss does not diminish what a huge loss it would be. The numbers do not lie. Revis is spectacular. Football Outsiders says his numbers relative to corners equate to over 5,500 yards passing for a quarterback, over 1,900 yards for a receiver, or 2,000 yards with a 6 yard average for a running back.
Thanks to Football Outsiders for supplying the numbers and being gracious about allowing us to use them.