Like many great nations, the collapse of Revis Island is detrimental to all of its neighbors. The ability of Revis Island to shut down any enemies was how the cornerback made his reputation.
But, like many prosperous nations, the most impressive trait was how he elevated all of his allies.
Sure, Darelle Revis can play suffocating man-to-man coverage with the best. And many great receivers have disappeared on Revis Island like they entered the Bermuda Triangle.
But Revis’ tue value was his versatility in man or zone coverage. He allowed Rex Ryan to be creative and daring in coverage and blitz packages.
The type of zone that many of the great defensive minds, from Dick LeBeau to Nick Sban, was perfect for Revis’ abilities. The route-recognition zone allowed the defenses to identify routes first, then cover receivers in a more man-style coverage after they identified the concept as it developed.
This technique is essential to the concepts that Revis allowed Ryan to run, and is one of the many reasons why the defensive game plan will have to be rewritten from scratch now that Revis is lost for the year with a torn ACL.
Here are a few examples of why Revis was the focal point of the Ryan defense.
Flooding the Field with Coverage
When Revis is isolated on a single receiver, many automatically assume that it is for the blitz. Although that is sometimes the case, and we will cover that later, he biggest asset was the coverage concepts he made available.
In this play, Revis found himself alone with a receiver, while the rest of the defense crowded the opposite side of the field. The Jets often bracket other receivers with their surplus of cornerbacks and safeties available thanks to Revis Island.
In this play, Antonio Cromartie was able to run a daring coverage that caused a pick-six. It appeared that he was running downfield with the outside receiver while Kyle Wilson played the flat receiver. The safety shaded towards that side, however, and Cromartie passed off the receiver and slid underneath the slot receiver’s route.
Ryan Fitzpatrick thought he had a cushion to make the throw, but he was duped into making a throw directly into coverage.
Short Pass Shut Down
When the Bills attempted a bubble screen to allow the receiver to make a play with his feet, Revis’ isolation on the opposite side of the field allowed the defense to swarm the receiver before he even started.
As soon as the receiver caught the ball, he had four defenders ready to swarm. With only one blocker in front of him, the numbers game will favor the defense every time. This destroys the whole concept behind the bubble screen.
Route Recognition Zone
A concept that the Jets have played very often with Revis at the helm allows Revis and his mates to watch the routes develop and wait to see the poor soul who dares to enter Revis Island.
In this play, Revis sits up top over a twin receiver set. Kyle Wilson waits underneath to see which receiver will run inside where help awaits. As soon as he has identified the top receiver on the stack as breaking in, he follows him to the middle of the field.
The underneath receiver runs to Revis, who sits in zone coverage. His underrated and rarely discussed anticipation allows him to sit on the route. As he anticipates the out route, he watches Fitzpatrick. As soon as the receiver breaks towards the sideline and Fitzpatrick begins to fire, Revis breaks downhill and snags a well-placed ball for an interception.
Normally, that pass would be a completion against most cornerbacks.
When Ryan Unleashes Hell
When the Jets do blitz, the numbers and the angles are both in direct relation to Revis’ abilities. In the first example, the blitz is overloaded to Revis’ side. This is two-fold.
First of all, the Jets want to blitz at C.J. Spiller, keeping him in to protect and not display his outstanding abilities when catching passes in the flats. Secondly, quarterbacks so often find their hot reads when throwing directly at the blitz. This is obvious considering the numerical disadvantage the defense often finds itself in, but against Revis in man coverage this is hardly the case.
The Jets run a typical zone blitz across the field, but Revis stays in man coverage, not allowing Fitzpatrick to find his hot read in the soft part of the zone.
Another advantage to Revis in coverage is that it allows strong safety LaRon Landry to play primarily at the line of scrimmage, emphasizing his disruptiveness in the run game and blitzing.
In this blitz, Landry joins the linebackers in an eight man box designed to snuff out the run. The advantage of such a formation is the stacked formation where the second level defenders align directly behind their linemen.
When the Bills do run the ball, the second level uses the linemen as a shield, flows to the ball, and stops the run as soon as it begins. Revis Island and its allies are not a generous bunch.
Life Without Revis
With Revis headed towards the IR, Ryan will be forced to rewrite his defensive game plan from scratch. His glum statements and demeanor when discussing Revis’ injury indicate a man that knows how dead in the water he is. Cromartie is an adequate cornerback who can play man or zone, but Wilson is far from adequate.
Or even serviceable.
Running back Joe McKnight’s shift to the defensive backfield is a nod to the extra bodies that will be needed in a more traditional defense that Ryan will be forced to employ. With Revis on the shelf, look for Ryan to run more Cover 3 shell, still leaving Landry underneath, but not using him nearly as aggressively.
Young linemen Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be forced to undertake more responsibility rushing the passer and stuffing the run. Wilkerson already leads all Jets linemen with eight tackles, only behind linebackers Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, David Harris, and safeties Landry and Yeremiah Bell.
Cromartie must continue to play the most physical coverage of his life, as the defense will have to provide as much help to Wilson as possible. The good news is that defenses will not target him often as they try to target Wilson and the dearth of talent behind him on the depth chart.
It will be a long season for Gang Green, and the Ryan’s seat will grow continually hotter.
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