The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been using Darrelle Revis in slightly confusing ways for the past three weeks. The best man coverage corner in the NFL, arguably the only true shutdown cornerback in the top football league in the world, is spending a lot of his time in zone coverage.
Apparently, this is by design, according to the Bucs' defensive coordinator.
"We try to have balance," Bill Sheridan said. "We self-scout, just like the offenses do. So we self-scout and we try not to get too lopsided in any schematic thing whether it's man or zone or two-deep or one-high, and, just like the offenses do, we self-scout and try and have a balance so that when you're getting prepared for us you can't say, ‘Hey they're always going to be in this,' or ‘In this down-and-distance they always play these kind of defenses.' We try and prevent that, so I appreciate [fan] concerns, but in our minds we don't want to do anything all the time."
Now, all of that makes some sense, doesn't it? It worked wonders against Drew Brees and helped to stop Tom Brady, too, though they seemed to figure it out after a couple of drives. It's part of why the Buccaneers have a stellar red zone defense. It's why they have 12 sacks and four interceptions in three games. For the most part, it's all working fairly well despite the fact that none of the Buccaneers edge rushers seem to be able to beat a traffic cone right now.
The question is: why do you have Darrelle Revis on your roster if that is what you're going to do? I'll tell you what Rex Ryan did when he had Revis: he put him in man coverage on one receiver with no safety help on every.single.play, except for some prevent and long-distance passing downs. That scheme was still creative and confused the hell out of opposing quarterbacks because of what Ryan did with the other 10 players on the field.
And yes, at times it looked like the Bucs did a little bit of that, although it can be hard to tell on tape. What they didn't do, though, was exploit Revis' man coverage skills to create an extra man elsewhere, either in blitz situations or in coverage.
If there's ever a time to change this, it would be this Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are facing Larry Fitzgerald, one of the top 5 receivers in the NFL. You want to take him out of the game. Yes, the Arizona Cardinals have other weapons -- but those are a lot easier to cover when you don't have to give extra help to whoever is covering Fitzgerald.
But if we can believe Bill Sheridan, they won't do that. So again I ask: if this is how you want to play defense, why is Darrelle Revis on this roster?
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