I can tell you one thing: I definitely did not think I would be spending the night before Thanksgiving breaking down Darrelle Revis’s film. But as the kids say, life comes at you fast.
In a move that came as a major surprise, the Chiefs signed the guy known as “Revis Island” to a two year contract with no guaranteed money for 2018 and the veteran minimum in 2017 (loving that structure, by the way). It’s no secret that the secondary has struggled, with Terrance Mitchell seemingly so far in the doghouse that he probably doesn’t remember he’s a person and Acker/Gaines taking turns disappointing the fanbase. Steven Nelson’s return has helped, but issues remain.
Revis, one would imagine, brings a certain amount of veteran leadership, attitude, and knowledge to the secondary. So that’s great. But what does he bring to the field?
I’ve heard a lot about Revis’s play last year with the Jets. Some people have told me he was terrible. Others have told me he played better as the year went along. Still others have told me he was actually solid. One consensus is that he is no longer the dominant, shutdown corner he once was. Which is to be expected at 31 (now 32) years old.
So for me the question was simple: did Revis show any gas left in the tank last year, or was he terrible? Of course, the only way to tell was to watch some film, so I cranked up the all-22 for for 4 2016 games to get some idea as to how Revis played. I tried to pick games throughout the season to get a good gauge, given that he was coming off a wrist injury and admitted to being out of shape.
If you’ve never read a CB breakdown by me, the methodology and reasoning behind it is explained in-depth here. Basically, I watch every snap and chart it as a success, failure, or neutral snap in coverage. I used to track everything as a success or failure, but the more I’ve learned the more untenable that system became. Failure percentage is the big deal, though I haven’t QUITE nailed down what I’d consider the “magic line” just yet (like 10 percent for an OL, for instance). However, we can at least compare him to Mitchell and Acker if nothing else.
Why every snap rather than just tracking targets? Because it’s insane to credit a CB for not getting thrown at on a snap he got burned, and it’s insane to punish a CB in good coverage for getting beat by a spectacular throw and catch. That said, the really important stuff here is the film, as my main goal was to see if Revis looks to be at least an average CB at this point. Because to be perfectly frank, average would be a welcome sight.
Here are the numbers:
All right, there’s all kinds of things we could try to take from those numbers, but the reality is that I haven’t been using this specific methodology long enough to be CERTAIN that his loss percentage is particularly good or bad. Sorry, that’s the nature of the beast. As I evolve so do articles like this, so we’ll stick with what we DO know.
First, I know that when I focused more on win percentage and charted all neutral snaps as wins, I wanted a 70 percent success rate. So that tells me that a 15 percent fail rate MAY be fairly decent. That would jibe with what I believe I know about playing corner in the NFL, where getting beat is something that happens to literally everyone (well, except prime Revis, but I digress).
Also, a loss percentage of 15 percent tells me that the idea that he was getting burned constantly wasn’t true, at least in the games I reviewed. So that’s good. If you compare him to the individual games I charted Acker and Mitchell (not really a fair sample size comparison, but we make due with what we have), Revis comes away looking very good (as opposed to 26.8% failure rate for Mitchell and a staggering 55.6 percent failure rate for Acker).
So that’s nice, I suppose. But what I really enjoyed was getting a feel for who Revis is as a player at this point in his career. Let’s talk positives first.
For starters, he’s a guy who has seen it all and knows how to deal with whatever a receiver throws at him.
Revis is not impressed with double moves, fakes, etc. He's exceptional at reading routes generally speaking. pic.twitter.com/0RDtDqSDKg— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 23, 2017
Revis no longer is a great athlete, but he makes up for that on many snaps by simply anticipating what is going to happen. He rarely bites on fakes of any kind, at least in the games I observed. The above snap is a hilarious example in that the receiver just gets ... nothing out of him. It’s completely wasted movement by the WR, and Revis just waits for him to make his next move. Perfectly handled, and for a defense that’s struggled giving up deep shots it was a welcome sight.
Revis’s anticipation on that play is an accurate reflection of what you see from him on a snap-by-snap basis. The Jets played a lot more zone than I anticipated, and whether it was zone or man Revis consistently seemed aware of where the ball was going even as quarterbacks began to wind up. He has a knack (again, whether in man or zone) for keeping an eye on the quarterback and using what he sees to break towards wherever the ball was going. By doing this, he was actually able to help other defenders more than you’d think for a guy who doesn’t have elite (or even good) speed at this point.
Included in that “awareness” (for lack of a better term, we’ll just use the Madden trait term) is that Revis is a highly disciplined player in zone coverage, rarely getting caught out of position. He knows his job and doesn’t let himself get drawn away from it.
Awareness is an underrated trait in a corner. I've liked what I've seen from Revis in zone work so far. And again, he's not afraid to tackle. pic.twitter.com/F5JtHO6OZ7— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 22, 2017
The Chiefs employ less zone coverage than any other team in the NFL, but they still have a fair amount of it (every NFL team runs zone coverage at least 30 percent of the time or more), and I believe Revis could really help improve the overall secondary’s discipline in those looks.
In man coverage, again, Revis is not a great athlete at this point, but his combination of anticipation, ability to read QB’s/WR’s, superb footwork and hips allows him to make coverage look easier than it should, even when receivers run solid routes.
Revis reads WR's and QB's extremely well, allows him to defend a much faster/quicker guy (Watkins) with seemingly little effort. Footwork is on point as well. Dude knows how to play corner. pic.twitter.com/8xF7hhM2rF— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 23, 2017
Sammy Watkins is a significantly better athlete than Revis. He’s both faster and quicker. Yet Revis was able to stay with him the vast majority of the game. It’s actually kind of fun to watch, though a bit harrowing, as it often LOOKED to me like Revis should get burned ... and then he didn’t. That’s a stressful way to spend time, but he makes it work.
Another positive aspect of Revis’s game is that, despite not having a reputation as a particularly fearsome tackler, he’s definitely not afraid to dive in there and wrap up.
Sifting through some snaps of Revis, starting with the Chiefs game. Not a ton to report. Doesn't look particularly fast, but has good feet. Does decently vs Kelce (one of the toughest covers in football), lays a nice hit on Hill. pic.twitter.com/xHlhYU0Q6T— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 22, 2017
Here, Revis ends up in one of the most terrifying places an NFL defender can be: one-on-one in open space with Tyreek Hill. A lot of corners lose that battle, but Revis makes a really nice form tackle, wrapping up and ensuring Hill goes down. I saw that on multiple plays, and although Revis wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to take on running backs, he was also more than willing to stick his nose in there and do his part. I like that in a corner. He also showed some physicality when asked to press and did a good job with it, though off man seemed to be more his game.
I kept expecting to see Revis get torched on go routes (mostly because all I’d heard about him last year was a few gifs of him getting beat deep, even though I should know better than to base an opinion off such things), but he actually did a really nice job on them by and large (again, this is just four games. Can’t tell you how it was all season). Jeremy Maclin cooked him once, but overall I just didn’t see this “terrible player” people told me to expect. Was he dominant? Not at all. Competent? Absolutely.
Now, does that mean he’ll be competent this season? Well, I have no idea. Another year has gone by, and Father Time is a cruel man. And it was clear watching Revis that he was no longer a stellar athlete, and at times it appeared that his brain would forget what his body’s limitations were.
Revis, at times, looks like a guy whose body betrays his brain in terms of speed/burst. Thinks he can get there and he can't. pic.twitter.com/Htc8cskyA9— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 23, 2017
An area of concern for Revis was situations like this, where he’d allowed a bit too much cushion and just lacked the burst to make up the ground in time. He also had some issues on longer crossing routes if he didn’t have a jump on the route. Extended sprinting with receivers just isn’t his thing at this point, and he appears to know it. Fortunately, he’s adapted his game to suit that, but there’s no guarantee he hasn’t slowed yet another step.
That lack of athleticism is absolutely the biggest thing to watch for whenever Revis gets on the field. As we all know, when corners really lose it, they absolutely LOSE it. Remember Ty Law going from “still very good” to “incredible liability?” He, like Revis, was enough of a technician to lose a step and still be solid. But when he lost two or three? It’s over. Same story with Champ Bailey. There’s a certain “you must be this tall to ride the roller coaster” speed/quickness a corner needs to have if he doesn’t want to get worked over at the NFL level. Revis had it last year, but that’s not a guarantee he’ll have it this year.
One interesting factor in all this is weight. Revis said during his introduction that he was out of shape and playing at a much heavier weight than normal last season due to coming back from a wrist injury and basically not doing what he needed to do (great tidbit unearthed by Terez, who remains the greatest). According to Revis, his usual playing weight is 205, and he was “way over” that weight to begin last season. Additionally, Revis had a hamstring issue while playing himself into shape, which further hampered him.
According to Revis, he’s now at 208 pounds (with the remaining three pounds being water weight, because apparently the man drinks way too much water) and has done a much better job taking care of his body over the last eight months than he did prior to the 2016 season.
Let’s say we’re not being cynical today. Let’s say we’re being optimistic. IF what Revis is saying is true, it could mean that Revis could be a bit faster/quicker than he was in 2016. And IF that’s the case, he could be considerably more than merely competent. And that would be ... sublime.
Of course, it’s impossible to say where this goes. It could be much ado about nothing. But here’s what I know: in the games I reviewed in 2016, Revis definitely didn’t stink and could be very fairly described as a “decent” corner. And decent, compared to what we’ve seen as of late, would be a welcome relief.
At the very least, at least it’s something to look forward to finding out. After the last few games, just that is a breath of fresh air. Now let’s all cross our fingers and hope Revis was playing at about 220 last year.