Darrelle Revis' play through the first two weeks of the season is one of the biggest topics of discussion for the Jets. Let's talk about what Revis has been and where he fits going forward.
His level of play is a big concern.
You can say the Bengals dinked and dunked Revis in Week 1 because of the cushion he was giving A.J. Green. You can say he was in good coverage once when Green beat him deep down the left sideline. You can say he was expecting help on the long touchdown to Green. You can say he was beaten deep by an Olympic caliber sprinter in Buffalo.
If you are saying all of these things, it is an issue. If a guy is getting beaten short because he is allowing too much cushion, getting burned deep, and not playing a play on the ball when he is in good position, what exactly is he bringing to the table? What is happening here is not good. You might be hard-pressed to find a less effective corner in the league through two weeks of the season.
The poor level of his play is jarring.
To hear some people tell it, you would think Revis was a trainwreck for years heading into this season. Yes, last season he did allow big performances to DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. You have to look at the complete picture, though.
Darrelle Revis recorded the NFL's lowest completion percentage allowed (46.5%) in 2015 for passes into his coverage. pic.twitter.com/rKstSF9kxL— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 12, 2016
Top 5 CBs in passer rating allowed— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 7, 2016
Josh Norman: 54
Trumaine Johnson: 55.3
Darrelle Revis: 56.5
Patrick Peterson: 61.8
As Dom Cosentino noted in January, Revis' season in 2015 was comprised of mainly excellence with two bad games stuck in.
Revis this season allowed 583 yards in coverage, per PFF. And 210 of those came in two games — Houston (114) and Sunday's finale in Buffalo (96). Those were his worst games, in terms of yards allowed.
Excluding his numbers in Houston and Buffalo (and yes, those obviously were two very important losses for the Jets), Revis was targeted 68 times this season and allowed 29 catches — a catch percentage of just 42.6.
While Revis eliminating the top target on the other team was no longer an automatic on every week, he remained a cornerback still very much in the top echelon in the league.
He was also dealing with a wrist injury. As much as injuries like this are a convenient excuse for a player showing a drop in performance, there is some evidence Revis was impacted by the torn ligament in his right wrist.
On the long touchdown where DeAndre Hopkins burned him in Houston a year ago, Hopkins went to the inside of Revis. This was to Revis' right hand side, where he had the ligament injury. You can see that Revis can only get physical with his left hand when Hopkins is on his right side. Revis was unable to use his right hand to redirect Hopkins and obstruct the route. It is an example of a big play showing that the injury probably did have some sort of impact.
Going back to his one year in New England in 2014, there is a story making the rounds that Bill Belichick knew Revis was in decline so he had the cornerback shadow the other team's second best receiver and double teamed the top guy on the other team. As with many tales, this story has been exaggerated.
Yes, there were times where Belichick did this such as the AFC Championship Game against the Colts where Revis primarily played Reggie Wayne rather than T.Y. Hilton.
This was not an every week thing, however. Take the game New England played against Cincinnati. Here is some footage of Revis going against the same A.J. Green who dropped 180 yards on the Jets in Week 1.
This is Revis beating Green one on one, not the Pats giving Revis an easier assignment while doubling Green. The game got out of hand in the second half, but in the first half the Bengals completed 1 of 6 passes to Green when Revis was on him. Revis recovered and forced a fumble on that completion.
This is a bit jarring since that was just two years ago. How far has Revis fallen? Then again, could it be that Revis has only had a couple of bad games? He was this dominant not too long ago.
Moving him to safety isn't an option.
At some point before the season began, I think some of the writers got bored so they brought up the topic of moving Revis to safety one day in training camp.
It isn't going to happen now or for a few years. Revis' cap hit this year is $17 million. It is $15.3 million next year. There is no safety in the league with even an $11 million cap hit this year. Next year, the highest cap hit is $11.7 million. Revis is too expensive to play at safety. (All numbers via Over the Cap.)
You might say, "Who cares? The money is spent either way. The Jets need to maximize their production.
Which lineup do you think makes the Jets better in 2016?
Cornerback: Darrelle Revis Safety: Marcus Gilchrist
Cornerback: Juston Burris Safety: Darrelle Revis
Do you think Burris is going to be better than Revis this year? Would you rather have Revis supplant Gilchrist while learning a new position on the fly in season? Remember, there is no OTA's or training camp left to ease him in.
What about 2017? If the Jets decide Revis is not a viable option at cornerback on his salary, the team can open up $7.3 million by cutting him (again per Over the Cap). Do you think $7.3 million in cap space or having Revis as by far the most expensive safety in the league is the better option?
The loss of Revis Island is significant.
Based on the performances against Hopkins and Watkins last year, we had to be bracing for it. The Jets cannot stick Revis on an island against the best wide receivers in the league for an entire game and expect him to dominate the way they could five, six, and seven years ago.
Think about what their ability to do so meant for those Rex Ryan defenses.
What is the one thing everybody always mentions about Bill Belichick's gameplans? He does everything within his power to take away the thing you do best. If that means using extra resources, he will do it. It may open up other things for you, but he's willing to take that risk. He'll tip his cap if you take advantage and win by doing those other things. By forcing you to try, he is taking you out of your comfort zone and forcing you to do something you don't want to do.
In today's pass happy NFL, the best thing so many teams do is throw to their number one receiver. Revis took that guy away by himself. The Jets didn't have to utilize extra resources. Instead, they could deploy those resources elsewhere on the defense to either clog passing lanes to other targets or send extra blitzers.
Lacking the ability to do that has consequences for this defense. To take away those elite number one receivers, the Jets will need to use more than one cornerback now. Of course, the more parts you have on defense, the more things that can go wrong.
Take that long touchdown on opening day. Revis was expecting Gilchrist to help him inside, but Gilchrist's attention was occupied by another receiver. (Marcus Williams had some culpability here also, but the point remains.)
You can see right here that Revis isn't left alone with Sammy Watkins on this play. Even with all of the traffic in the area, there is a hole passing him off from one guy to another, and the Bills take advantage of the window for a completion.
On Marcus Williams' interception from last Thursday, you can see there is room to complete this pass if it is put in front of Watkins. The thing is this wasn't bad coverage at all by Williams. The window is small, and he does have help coming in the form of Gilchrist. That's just the way it is. When you have two guys, there are typically going to be windows. That is especially true when your less-skilled number two guy is on the front end of that double team.
Revis needs to learn what he is.
You almost get the feeling that Revis is still trying to figure out how much speed he still has and how he can approach the game. During the halftime show last Thursday, a few of the analysts noted how little confidence they sensed in Revis.
It was evident in the game against Green from how frequently he was nickeled and dimed.
Was Revis giving this type of cushion by design? Was it an order from the coaching staff? Todd Bowles indicated he lets Revis play the type of coverage Revis sees fit to play.
On if Revis has the freedom to play certain styles…
On if everyone has the freedom Revis has…
Not everyone. He does.
There is one play that really sticks out in my mind from last week's game against Buffalo.
This was after the same receiver had burned him on an 84 yard touchdown. He isn't really reading the route here as much as he is looking skittish, afraid he is going to be beaten deep. This was the lack of confidence the analysts on television were referencing.
When I think about the things that make Revis stick out as the premier cornerback of his generation, sure his athletic ability mattered, but he was just so smart.
Take this play when he was with New England. He knew Greg Jennings' route better than Jennings did.
He always knew where he had to be.
Now he is looking at a new normal. He doesn't seem sure how much cushion he can give to both prevent a big play and still be close enough to stop the other team from dinking and dunking him to death. Revis isn't sure how much speed he has and seems scared.
It is possible his speed is just totally gone, and there is nothing he can do. It is also possible that he will put the pieces together. Again, he has the smarts to read routes and figure out when he can gamble. He can figure out how much cushion he can give to limit the possibility of getting burned over the top while still giving himself a chance on the short one. He isn't going to be able to get to everything anymore, but can he position himself through brain power to still be effective?
If he can't cover the Green's of the world for an entire game without getting toasted, can he hang with them for maybe one-third of the snaps? Can he still take away a top target from the opponent whose game doesn't rely on speed like a Larry Fitzgerald in a few weeks when the Jets travel to Arizona?
Revis allowed the Jets to deploy resources away from him early in his career. Now he has teammates good enough that the team can give him extra help. With the talent the Jets have on the defensive line, they should be able to get pressure without blitzing, allowing the Jets to send extra players into coverage to help clog passing lanes and throw exotic looks at the quarterback from the back of the defense. Could Revis knowing he has help be more aggressive and have success with the peace of mind that comes with assistance in a worst case scenario?
These are things we will find out in the coming weeks. Even if Revis Island is gone and he cannot live up to his contract, an effective Revis is still important for the Jets in 2016.