Overview: Well, I've heard it all week and many of you probably have too... "Antonio Bryant had better get his suntan lotion and lounge chair, because he's going to be on Revis Island all day Sunday."... or something similar to this schtick. Blech. Any way you want to characterize it, Antonio Bryant, on paper, has a challenging matchup Sunday against All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets at Raymond James Stadium.
So what's the big deal with Darrelle Revis anyways? Why does it matter that he'll probably be covering Bryant? Many Pro-Bowl calibur #1 wide receivers have visited Revis Island this season. Randy Moss? Twice sun burned on Revis Island. Steve Smith? Forgot his sunscreen, burned. Terrell Owens? Nada. Marques Colston? As limited by Revis as anyone else this season. Andre Johnson? 4 catches for 35 yards, his lowest total on the season.
So it's all but a foregone conclusion that Mr. Revis is going to shut down our #1 guy AB, right? Maybe, maybe not. The Jets have typically faced opponents this season with a less-pass-aggressive offense/more balanced offense (Bills, Panthers, Dolphins, Texans, Saints, Jaguars, and Titans) than the Bucs employ, which obviously limits looks and targets to those teams' #1 WRs. Giving credit where credit is due, when those teams do throw, certainly Revis has the uncanny quickness, speed, and ball skills to stay with his receiver on almost any route. That said, the ying to the yang with the success of Revis is Rex Ryan's aggressive blitzing 3-4 scheme. Hey, what would you expect from the son of Buddy Ryan?! Although the Jets statistically rank in the bottom half of the league in sacks and in the middle of the league in interceptions forced, they do create substantial pressure, which leads to hurries, aborted throws, and misfires... obviously aiding their cornerbacks. Against teams that run out of standard under-center formations, that kind of pressure makes things very difficult on a quarterback to drop back, scan the defense, find the blitz or the direction the secondary is rolling, go through his progressions, and make his throw. It's a little easier in the shotgun formation, which, with Cadillac likely out tomorrow, the Bucs could employ heavily tomorrow as they have every week. Bryant has played some pretty inspired football and, while not top-tier, has the speed to possibly get past Revis a time or two Sunday. If he can get even a small crease against Revis, we've seen he has the ability to repeatedly make a tough catch like this:
Look Back at Week 13 Highlights:
First, the Bucs come to the line in a shotgun balanced spread, 1-back set. Bryant runs hard off the line on a go route against the Panther CB and gets past him along the sidelines. With the safety late getting over to help, Bryant had clear leeway to tightrope the sidelines and make a circus catch for a huge play. Bryant flashed some jets and showed great concentration and coordination in getting just enough of the ball and the ground to make a great catch. If Freeman throws that ball a hair or two further inbounds, Bryant might have had a shot to make a house call there.
Next, the Bucs are in a shotgun trips right formation facing a standard nickel package zone coverage. Stroughter runs a hitch, drawing the underneath defender to him, and Bryant ran free on a deep dig over the middle behind the underneath zone LB coverage and ahead of the way-too-deep Cover 2. A bread-and-butter pass play against a pretty base defense.
Finally, a one-back strong right set that shifted to balanced at the snap. From the snap, Freeman looks the way of Stovall, who runs a lacadaisical slant pattern that's snuffed out by the underneath zone coverage of the dropping linebacker. Freeman finally breaks off that option, scrambles away from the sack and finds Bryant. AB ran a deep out against the corner, who was giving a heavy cushion. Astutely, AB flashed up field in a millisecond when Freeman rolled out past the left tackle and made a heavy play. Nice to see him not go Randy Moss-Oakland Raider and shut it down after his route.
Look ahead to Week 14: As discussed before, all things being equal, Bryant is expected by the prognosticators to have his hands full on Sunday with Darrelle Revis, but the Buccaneer downfield offensive passing system might actually play to Bryant's advantage on Sunday. If Stevens/Gilmore (and when asked to stay in, Winslow) and Derrick Ward can pick up the blitz well, Bryant is capable of making plays one-on-one against anybody and has the ability to get past the Revis in tight man/bump-and-run coverage. I think he suprises a bit on Sunday.