Is one bad season enough to remove an all-time great from relevancy?
If your name is Darrelle Revis, that seems to be the general consensus.
Revis, who had an entire island named after him, is without hesitation one of the 10 greatest cornerbacks ever to play the position, turning in a stretch of dominance during his 20s that cemented his status as a true shutdown corner.
Then after brief stints in New England and Tampa Bay, Revis returned to the New York Jets in 2015 as a 30-year-old All-Pro with more to prove. He turned in another Pro Bowl season and appeared to still have the goods.
Then came last season, and with it a major slump, both for Revis and the entire Jets defense. New York allowed 409 points (ranking 28th in the league), with Revis hauling in just one of the team’s paltry eight interceptions. “Revis Island” looked more like “Revis Lost at Sea,” the cornerback looking like a heavy-legged and increasingly frustrated shell of his former self.
Add in a nasty offseason incident that resulted in Revis being charged with four felonies, and football pundits and fans have, perhaps rightly, been quick to dismiss Revis’ future as-we-know-it. At the very least, there’s little reason to believe he’ll return to the level of dominance that defined much of his career.
In his first nine seasons, quarterbacks targeting Revis had a cumulative rating of 60.4. But in 2016, that rating jumped to 109.8.
How much of that is on Revis’ diminishing skills? How much of it is being treated like a key set piece when the surrounding infrastructure was, to be blunt, terrible?
It’s worth at least examining the factors that led to the blip that was Revis’ 2016 season. Are there reasons to believe he could still provide solid-if-unspectacular play?
In Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy defense, Revis was often charged with handling opposing teams' top receiver, and with little help. But New York was one of the least effective pressure units a year ago, registering just 27 sacks, which had them ranked 29th in the league. Compare this number to Green Bay’s 40 sacks — not to mention the Packers, despite their penchant for giving up the big play, supplied plenty of their own with 17 interceptions.
If indeed Revis has lost a step, the missing ingredient in setting him up for success surely isn’t making him cover No. 1 receivers for longer.
In Green Bay, Revis would be paired with a pair of rangy safeties in Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett. And while Dom Capers has long employed one of the league’s more blitz-happy schemes (despite fan perception), he’s rarely reliant on Cover 0 blitzes that strand corners by their lonesome on the outside.
Assuming his felony case, to be adjudicated March 15, goes well, the recently released Revis would undoubtedly want to play for a winner. In Green Bay he’d finally play for a team, New England in 2014 notwithstanding, that doesn’t require its defenses to smother opponents.
Comparisons to a Charles Woodson-esque signing don’t hold up under the microscope — Woodson was still just 29 when the Packers signed him to a seven-year, $49 million dollar deal in 2006 — but both 21 and Revis shared the general consensus as being players past their prime.
In Green Bay, Woodson resurrected his career and found a niche as a ballhawk in Capers’ scheme. Perhaps Revis would rightly benefit from new life in Green Bay. Think not of him as the shutdown corner who can be relegated to the outside and left to fend for himself. Use him creatively, though, and Green Bay might have a legitimate addition.
Peppers found new life transitioning to outside linebacker. Woodson found new life as a rover, lining up wherever it benefitted his instincts and ballhawking ability. Clay Matthews appears to be headed back to a roving role as well, largely as the result of his ineffectiveness as a pure edge pass rusher last season.
If Revis has lost a step, maybe using him at spots in the slot or at safety is his future.
None of this is to say that the Packers will likely make this move. Of course they probably won’t.
But March is a time for pipe dreams, and a return to partial form for Revis could still represent a quantum leap in quality for a Packers secondary besieged at corner by injuries, inconsistency and youth.
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