The Jets beat the Bills on Thursday night in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the 37-31 score suggests. A big reason for that was because Darrelle Revis — the seven-time Pro Bowler, five-time first team All-Pro, 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XLIX champion Darrelle Revis -- gave up an 84-yard touchdown to a wide receiver who had just 66 receiving yards total in his last two seasons.
The play gave the Bills a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, and provoked a strong reaction from the social media-scape. Revis was torched even more handily in Week 1 by the Bengals’ A.J. Green, who caught 12 passes for 180 yards, of which eight catches and 83 yards came against Revis as the primary defender. After Goodwin’s score, Revis’ numbers looked abysmal ...
Bills WR Marquise Goodwin scores an 84 yard TD against Darrelle Revis.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 16, 2016
Passes thrown Revis' way so far this year: 9/9, 167 yrds, 1 TD #TNF
... and naturally, a lot of people were quick to call him washed up.
And that wouldn’t be the worst thing. No one would dare claim that Revis’ Hall of Fame career is now somehow sullied. He’s at an age, 31, when a lot of cornerbacks are historically on their decline.
But Thursday night’s reaction might have been a tad overdramatic. After two games it’s still too early to say that Revis’ career is fading. At least, he has some good excuses for his poor play.
It’s just a couple plays
Pro Football Focus credited Revis for giving up 91 yards against the Bills, which means he gave up seven yards the rest of the game. Two plays stand out this season: Goodwin’s score, and a 54-yard touchdown bomb that Green caught while Revis was trailing. Both looked bad.
But when you look at the plays themselves, it’s hard to blame Revis entirely. Against Green, Revis was playing zone, not man, and had zero safety help as he tried to get to the space that his teammate vacated.
Pro Football Focus counted it as a coverage bust, and not a mark against Revis. Against Goodwin ...
... well actually that just looks like an old fashioned torchin’, but bear in mind that the little-used receiver who beat him happens to have world-class track speed. He can beat anyone in the NFL in a straight sprint, which is exactly what he did against Revis.
Green also made a spectacular catch for 32 yards down the sideline against Revis. Did Revis look a tad slow? Probably. Could he have defended that play much better? Tough to imagine, considering what Green had to do to make the grab. He’s one of the best all-around receivers in the league for good reason.
The Jets aren’t playing him right
SB Nation’s Stephen White brought this up during the Bills game:
Revis looks better in press but they seem to be playing him off the line more so far this season. Not working out so well for him— Stephen White (@sgw94) September 16, 2016
Revis is one of the best press corners to ever play, but the Jets have often been giving him a cushion off receivers or putting him in zone coverage through two games. When he primarily played zone in 2013 with the Buccaneers, Revis didn’t perform at his characteristically high level. He was cut by the team then signed by the Patriots, who tasked him with blanketing specific receivers. Revis quickly looked like his old self again despite his advancing age.
Revis is even older now, so it’s entirely possible that the Jets are trying to protect his tired legs. But if that’s the case, the gambit isn’t working all that well. Green was able to largely take what he wanted underneath, then catch Revis flat footed when he wanted to go deep. The Jets might have been better off letting Revis play how he’s used to playing.
Okay, maybe Revis is kind of old
We know that the average value of cornerbacks peaks between roughly 26 and 28 years old, and usually declines after that. Revis certainly isn’t playing as well as he did in his one season with the Patriots, and not nearly at the astronomical heights of his pre-ACL tear days with the Jets. Last season, Pro Football Focus gave him his lowest season grade of his career when he was presumably playing a style he preferred.
Still, there is a big difference between a shaky Darrelle Revis and a replacement level corner. He may not get his eighth Pro Bowl nod this year, but he can still be an asset to the Jets. His assignments won’t be easy — the likes of Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, T.Y. Hilton and others are on deck — but there’s also a good chance that the season normalizes. Even among that group of receivers, Green stands out as a special talent, and after that Goodwin catch Revis seemed to hold up well.
The day comes for every legendary player to look mortal, but we shouldn’t be in a rush to claim it before it arrives.