Buccaneers are using Darrelle Revis almost strictly in zone coverage
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - who ranked dead last against the pass in 2012 - traded a first-round pick to acquire Revis over the offseason, the thought was that they would use him the same way that the Jets did. After all, a great coaching staff always knows how to use players in ways that emphasize their strengths. For Revis, his strength is one-on-one man coverage.
However, Revis has not been used in man coverage this season nearly as much as many of us expected. Revis' reported displeasure with head coach Greg Schiano in mid-September was said to have been a partial result of the lack of man coverage he was playing, but the All-Pro cornerback's complaints have not changed the Buccaneers' defensive philosophy. According to Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, Revis played just two snaps of man coverage in Week 6.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that Revis has flawlessly transitioned to a more zone-heavy scheme, and he is continuing to display some of the best cornerback play in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Revis' Week 6 performance was his third best overall game since Week 14 of 2009. In addition, he has graded out as the second best cornerback in the NFL through six weeks, only being outdone by Tennessee's Alterraun Verner.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers' pass defense as a whole has improved dramatically, despite the fact that another new addition to the secondary - Dashon Goldson - has not played nearly as well as expected. Last year's worst pass defense now ranks 16th in the NFL, and is 12th in yards per pass attempt. While it seems like a completely boneheaded idea to play Revis in strict zone coverage, he has still been extremely effective and is a huge part of a massive turnaround for the Buccaneers' secondary.
In this day and age, one of the huge takeaways from Revis' usage has to be its impact on fantasy football. No longer shadowing opponents' top pass catchers, facing off with Revis is no longer a significant downgrade to your fantasy wide receivers. While Revis is continuing to dominate in a new way, zone coverage allows him to shut down a specific area of the field, not a specific player. Play your fantasy receivers against the Buccaneers as you would against other teams with upper/mid-level pass defenses.