By: Steve Balestrieri
Darrelle Revis brings a badly needed upgrade to the Patriots secondary. (USA TODAY Images)
The landscape of the New England Patriots secondary changed very quickly this spring with the signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis. Patriots’ fans had momentarily gone into panic mode with the news that Aqib Talib had signed with the Denver Broncos, but all that changed rather quickly. With the news of Revis’ signing and consequently Brandon Browner, the cornerback position in New England now is not only one of strength, but arguably the strongest it has been in the Bill Belichick era.
Until blowing out an ACL with the Jets, Revis was the gold standard of NFL cornerbacks, “Revis Island” was a frequently heard term describing his ability to shadow and shut down an opponent’s top wide receiver. Revis worked his way back to health in 2013 and now completely ready to go, will inject new life in a Patriots secondary.
Revis was traded from the Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spring of 2013 for a first and a fourth round draft pick and worked his way slowly back from his ACL injury. During joint practices in Foxboro against the Patriots in August, he took part in individual but not any team drills.
Yet, he played in all 16 games, albeit not quite 100 percent physically and was frequently misused in head coach Greg Schiano’s zone heavy defensive system. The Bucs struggled on both sides of the ball and Revis was not the impact player he’s been in the past.
“Every coach has their own philosophy and coaching style. It could work; it could not work. It didn’t, and we went 4-12,” Revis said. “The result is 4-12. That’s what you get. It’s already spoken what happened. A lot of us got fired.”
With Schiano’s firing, new coach Lovie Smith jettisoned Revis and his $16 million dollar contract so that the Bucs could dip into the free agent pool and look for help at many positions of need. The Patriots and Bill Belichick were happy to oblige.
What to Watch For in 2014:
Coming to New England gives Revis a chance to play for a winner and a realistic shot at playing in a Super Bowl. And coming back to the AFC East where he spent the first six seasons of his career.
“I’m really excited,’’ said the 29 year old Revis. “I went down a list of teams where I thought I could win and New England kind of stuck out for me. It’s been great and I can’t wait for training camp.’’
Not since Ty Law roamed the secondary for the New England has the Pats had a talented corner such as Revis. He provides an immediate upgrade over Talib in terms of durability and most importantly Revis is much more technically sound than Talib. His ability to shut down an opponent’s top wide receiver allows Belichick to be much more creative (read aggressive) with the Patriots defense.
Thus far, Revis has been doing and saying all the right things in New England, praising the “Patriots Way” and the wide receivers have raved about his ability to cover during the spring practices stating he was making their life difficult.
With the Patriots expected to play much more man coverage with the additions of both Revis and Browner, their ability to match up and physically jam receivers at the line will be much improved. The team is now stocked at corner with Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard backing up the new duo and those two will compete for the starting job for the first four weeks while Browner serves a four-game league mandated suspension.
This will allow Kyle Arrington to remain strictly in the slot where he’s much more effective and comfortable. It will also allow more freedom for safety Devin McCourty to be more of a playmaker. The trickle-down effect of having the quarterback to having to hold the ball a little longer in the pocket is that it will now make the Patriots pass rush much more effective.
Patriots’ fans flocking to training camp beginning on Thursday will be watching Revis closely are bound to be slightly disappointed, because you won’t witness much action on his side of the field. Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garappolo will undoubtedly not throw much on Revis, taking their chances elsewhere.
The days of using converted wide receivers in the secondary such as Troy Brown and Julian Edelman are now thankfully long gone and “Revis Island” is now (at least for 2014), residing in the 508 area code. The Patriots pass defense of 2014 should be a very different, much improved unit and it all starts with Revis.
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