There are a lot of talented players on the New York Jets and a lot of famous names. But on the football field, who really wears the crown?
Who is the best and most valuable Jet?
There are three players on the Jets who are elite enough to warrant consideration—cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold and nose tackle Sione Pouha.
The biggest name on the Jets—besides perhaps Tim Tebow—is Darrelle Revis. But before breaking down Revis' game, consider the two other players on the Jets who deserve some attention.
There are two players besides Revis on the Jets roster who can stake a claim for being the best at what they do.
The first is nose tackle Sione Pouha. Pouha was the best-rated nose tackle in the NFL in 2011. An eight year veteran—all with the Jets—Pouha is the anchor of the Jets' defense. He is also considered one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL. At 325 pounds, he takes up a lot of space on the interior line, and can often generate a push against double teams.
Pouha is not entirely dominant though. He only edged out Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals by a tenth of a point in the 2011 ratings. Moreover, there are not many legitimate nose tackles in the NFL anymore. Most defenses are running predominantly 4-3 base formations. To affirm this, the top three 4-3 defensive ends all outranked Pouha.
The second player to consider is Nick Mangold. Mangold was a first-round pick by the Jets in 2006. He is already a three-time All-Pro player, and has been a Pro Bowler in each the last four years, Mangold ranked second in the NFL among centers in 2011. The Jets' collapse during his absence in 2011 was evidence of his great value to the team. His value is emphasized by the Jets' lack of a solid backup center.
Mangold could potentially rival Revis in terms of pure value to the team. Without his presence, the offensive line is sub-par. If Revis is the defensive MVP, then Mangold is the offensive MVP. To see if Revis truly deserves to wear the Jets' crown, we need to take a closer look at the role and impact of Revis.
Clear Positional Dominance
One of the most unique aspects of Darrelle Revis within the context of the modern NFL is how dominant he is with respect to other cornerbacks. It is, at this point, indisputable that Revis is the best cornerback in the NFL. Some even consider him the most dominant player in the NFL.
It is arguable that out of all the positions in the modern NFL, the only one with a clear best player is cornerback.
For the 2011 season, Revis graded out at Pro Football Focus with an overall rating of 24.6. The next closest cornerback was Brent Grimes of the Atlanta Falcons at 17.2. That jump of 7.4 points is astronomical compared with the fractions that usually separate top-level players.
For comparison, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu ranked as the best in the NFL by only 1.8 points at his position. Quarterback Drew Brees only beat out Aaron Rodgers by nine percent, and it is certainly disputed whether or not he is the best quarterback.
All-Around Play Style
Almost more impressive than his coverage abilities—which are the best in the NFL—Revis ranked No. 9 in the league in run defense, with a positive score of 4.0. Every cornerback ranked ahead of him in run defense ranked poorly in coverage. The only player who was even in his ballpark in terms of run and pass defense was Cortland Finnegan of the Tennessee Titans.
In the modern NFL there are cover corners, there are run-stoppers and there is Darrelle Revis. He changes the way offensive coordinators gameplan by being in position to impact every play in both the running and passing game.
Fearing No Quarterbacks
Revis treats all quarterbacks equally. He makes them all miserable in the same way. By blanketing opposing receivers, he makes it irrelevant how accurately a quarterback can throw the ball.
Opposing quarterbacks put up a 45.6 quarterback rating against Revis in 2011. The closest any other qualifying cornerback (at least 500 snaps) came was Asante Samuel of the Philadelphia Eagles with 52.4. The next highest by a player who played as many snaps as Revis was Corey Webster of the New York Giants with 71.6.
Hall of Fame Credentials
The only surefire Hall of Famer on the Jets roster currently is Revis. While it is possible that others—such as center Nick Mangold and wide receiver Santonio Holmes—could find themselves in that discussion, Revis is the only one who has it in the bag.
Early in his career, I used to talk to him about the fact that I was going to stay on him every single day and ride him regardless of how good he got, because I didn’t think he realized the potential of how good he could be... I felt very strongly he could be a Hall of Fame player because of his talent and his work ethic. I think that’s where he’s headed. He plays with great technique, has great natural ability, and he’s passionate.
Other than his rookie season, Revis has been a Pro Bowler every year of his career. He has also made the All-Pro team for the past three seasons, and was the 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He lost the league-wide 2009 vote to the more-famous Charles Woodson. However, Revis was much more successful in coverage that year, outranking Woodson 33 to 22.
Negative press surrounding the Jets prevented Revis from winning the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year award, though he would have been a reasonable choice. His 2011 campaign was one of the best ever by a cornerback. The first half of the season was especially outstanding. He put up an opposing QB rating of 2.9. Interestingly, Woodson again drew one of the votes in 2011 despite rating below average for the season among cornerbacks.
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So who is the Jets' best player?
The answer is as clear now as it has been for the past three years:
Whereas Mangold executes well within the offensive and Pouha anchors the defensive line, Revis redefines what it is possible for the defense to do. Revis is both the best and the most valuable player on the Jets. The whole defense revolves around the Jets' ability to remove the best opposing wide receiver from the game entirely.
I think you feel good when you have the best player on the field. That can't hurt you. ... There's only one Darrelle Revis. I know I feel great about it. It's hard not to smile. You feel great as a playcaller.
Unfortunately for Rex Ryan and the Jets, their top player will be watching from the sidelines for the rest of the 2012 season. After missing the second game of the season with a concussion, Revis suffered an ACL tear in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins. The Jets currently sit atop the AFC East at 2-1. However, that seat will be very hard to hold without their best player.