Buccaneers could get rid of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis

1/2/14 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

As cornerback Darrelle Revis got back into game shape early in the 2013 season after tearing his ACL the previous year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used him mostly in zone coverage. A true shadow cornerback, Revis made it clear that he preferred to play in man coverage, though he was willing to play in zone as he got his knee back in shape. He is expected to be in prime condition by the start of the 2014 season, so Revis was likely looking forward to a season in which he could square off with the league's best receivers and eliminate them from opponents' game plans. The Buccaneers, however, brought in a new head coach in Lovie Smith, whose past success in the NFL has come thanks to the "Tampa Two" defensive scheme, a variation of Cover 2.

Nov 17, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) laughs on the sidelines as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Atlanta Falcons 41-28 at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY SportsThe Tampa Two requires its cornerbacks to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and then drop back into a zone that protects the sidelines. The scheme does not call for great man-to-man corners (which Revis is), but rather great tackling cornerbacks (i.e. Ronde Barber or Charles Tillman). Revis does tackle pretty well (he ranked 29th in tackling efficiency among 79 corners who played at least 50% of their teams' snaps, according to Pro Football Focus), but the Tampa Two still does not take advantage of his best skill, man coverage.

Revis signed a six-year, $96 million contract with Tampa Bay after being acquired from the New York Jets last offseason, but the deal contains no guaranteed money. If the Buccaneers feel that Revis is not worth another $80 million as a zone corner, or that Revis will be unhappy in the new scheme, they can release him outright and not face any penalties as far as cap space. The Buccaneers could use the money they save to sign a cornerback better suited for the Tampa Two, such as impending free agent Charles Tillman, who excelled in the scheme under Lovie Smith in Chicago. Other top free agents with experience in zone-heavy schemes include Brent Grimes (MIA) and Aqib Talib (NE), though they are both at their best in man coverage.

Of course, Smith could always alter his defensive philosophy to better suit Revis. Great coaches find ways to get the best out of their players, adapting their schemes to suit the abilities of their personnel. Smith could attempt to do this, though whether or not he would employ the Tampa Two was likely discussed before he signed on with the team.

The most likely scenario here is that Revis returns to the Buccaneers and plays a large majority of zone coverage in 2014. After all, the Buccaneers gave up the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft to acquire Revis, and though he is best at man coverage, Revis still graded out as the No. 4 cover corner (and No. 1 corner overall) while playing in mostly zone coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That being said, the Buccaneers could decide that the money would be better spent elsewhere, so this is a situation to keep an eye on.
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1/16/14   |   lechung093

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