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Darrelle Revis film review: Is it happening with the Chiefs?

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When the Chiefs signed Darrelle Revis, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

On one hand, you’ve got a guy who is considered the best corner in recent years coming to Kansas City. Yay! On the other hand, you’ve got a guy who is on the wrong side of 30 (32 currently) at a position that almost never sees guys age well past that point. Not yay.

I went back and reviewed four games from Revis last year on all-22, trying to figure out whether or not he played well. What I found was a very competent but not elite corner with some speed/quickness issues but a good understanding of the game. Yay! Then I found out that Revis was “out of shape” (according to himself) last year and that affected him, and he’s now back in shape. Double yay! Of course, then he had his first game as a Chief and was not at all impactful, playing limited snaps. Not yay.

The game against Oakland, with Marcus Peters serving his one-game suspension, provided the an opportunity to review Revis in a much bigger role and after having been practicing for longer than a week. Additionally, with the Chiefs defense seemingly playing so much better than it did the week before, it made sense to see what role Revis played in that. So naturally, I went back and watched the film.

And now I’m struggling to control my optimism.

If you’ve never read a film review by me when it comes to corners, read this. It explains in great detail my methodology and reasoning.

In short, I review every coverage snap and grade it as a success, fail, or neutral. The reason for this is that “catches allowed” and “targets” (though I track those too) only take into account when a CB was thrown at and the result. It doesn’t factor in the other 30-40 snaps, which means you’re ignoring the vast majority of the game. If a corner gets roasted by the QB doesn’t see it, does that mean the CB played well? Of course not. But if you only gauge by targets and catches allowed, you miss that.

So by tracking wins/losses/neutral plays you eliminate the opponents’ play as a factor. If the corner has fantastic coverage but the QBWR/ makes a mind-boggling throw/catch, is that a WORSE play than a corner getting burned and the quarterback making a wildly inaccurate throw that sails out of bounds? Again, of course not. So the main priority is to figure out JUST how the corner played, not everyone else around him.

All right, let’s look at some numbers.

There’s a lot to take in there. For the sake of comparison, here’s a link to a couple of games reviewed of Mitchell and Acker. That’s a pretty small sample size, to be sure. You already have a link to what Revis did last year, so we can use that as a basis as well. For more basis to compare, here’s one of the first half of 2015 for Marcus Peters, and here’s a look at all of 2015 for Sean Smith (remember him?).

The most important stat I track is obviously fail percentage. While I don’t have a set line as of yet (my sample size doing this isn’t large enough at this point), I’m leaning towards looking at something like 20-25% “failure” being in the acceptable range, with below that being good and above that getting concerning (for example, Acker’s fail rate was over 50%. That’s bad).

So obviously, Revis’s fail rate jumps out at you at 11.1%. In fact, it’s one of the better games I’ve charted for any corner that I can recall. Revis spent a LOT of time in 1x1 situations in press man coverage, and he acquitted himself very well the vast majority of the game.

That press man issue is something to take note of. As I’ve discussed previously, the Chiefs spent more time in actual press man (as opposed to off man) against the Raiders than in most (if not all) other games this season. It’s impossible to say whether that’s in part due to Revis’s presence (as well as perhaps Terrance Mitchell, who is far and away at his best when pressing), but he looked very good in that technique all day regardless of who he was matched up against.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned on the film for this game. I was half-expecting Revis to have been more a beneficiary of Carr’s inaccurate throws or perhaps the pass rush finding its way home in time to cover for him. On the contrary, Revis was a big part of the defense playing so much better against Oakland this time around.

For starters, Revis continues to have fantastic feet and smooth hips, which is something that I noticed when looking at last year’s film as well.

Revis takes few false steps and is very patient in his coverage, letting receivers move and then mirroring with his own steps. On multiple routes it looked like Revis was an actual red mirror of the receiver, literally stepping in time with the man he was covering. It’s impressive to watch.

While Revis doesn’t have elite speed or quickness at this point, both appear to be adequate and are made to look even more so by his footwork and route anticipation. He also shows a willingness to be physical in coverage, whether it’s right off the line of scrimmage or several yards down the field. He’s quite practiced and making just enough contact to mess with a receiver’s movement but not get called for illegal contact.

Because Revis is so good at reading receivers and anticipating where routes are going, as well as using some physicality to slow down receivers, it often doesn’t even look like he has to move at top speed in order to stay with his man.

The number of plays Revis was completely in the pocket of his WR outnumber the plays where he was beaten in coverage. For most corners, good coverage isn’t THAT good. It’s very tough to stay right next to a receiver, almost brushing up against him, without either losing your feet due to tripping or accidentally making enough contact to get a flag. You can really see why Revis was known as “Revis Island” for all those years, even now. When his coverage is on, it is ON.

Another thing I really like about Revis is that he almost always (when he’s able) has his eyes on both the quarterback and his receiver. This is a trait he shares with Marcus Peters, though Revis appears less likely to lose his receiver while watching the QB (a decade of experience helps with such things). This allows Revis to stay aware of where the play is going and even seems to aid him in following his receivers route. It also allows him to contest the ball when it comes his way, which he did well several times.

It actually took until the 3rd quarter for Revis to get his first “fail” in coverage. And I think in that failed coverage you see the one issue with Revis at this point in his career.

(Ignore the fact that the idiot on Twitter said something about Oakland’s sun, by the way. The game was in KC. I’m not a smart man. Anyways...)

Revis appears to get caught guessing the wrong route on a double move and the receiver runs past him. You can see here that Revis’s recovery quickness/speed isn’t elite (though he doesn’t appear to go all-out, seeing Carr in trouble).

In my opinion, that may be the thing that keeps him from returning to absolute elite status at this point in his career: recovery. Every corner is going to get caught a few times in a game. However, at one point Revis was quick/fast enough to catch up with receivers quickly on the rare occasions it happened to him. While Revis does look more athletic than he did as a Jet last year (there may be something to this “lost weight” thing), I don’t think he has that elite burst anymore.

Now, will that keep Revis from being a very good corner if he continues to show the same traits he did against the Raiders? Absolutely not. His footwork, physicality, hips, and ability to read both WR’s and QB’s will be more than enough, and he definitely doesn’t look SLOW out there. He’s just no longer FAST, if that makes sense. Which could well be the difference between “still very good” and “elite corner.”

All that said, this is of course just one very good game. Revis has the rest of the season to show that he’s still a good enough player to warrant that second year of the contract the Chiefs gave him. However, this game was a good start. He’ll get tested a lot more on Saturday, as I assume the Chargers will look to go after him rather than Marcus Peters (or perhaps they just try and focus on Nelson or Mitchell).

I’m looking forward to seeing how Revis responds. If he plays as well against the Chargers as he did against the Raiders, it’s going to be tough for me to keep my natural optimism in check. This hasn’t been the year for such things for the most part. We’ll see out it plays out.