If all goes well with Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis this week in practice, he’ll start for the Buccaneers in Week 1 when they travel to play the New York Jets. At least that’s what head coach Greg Schiano told the media he has in mind.
"Like I've said all along, as long as there are no setbacks, that’s the plan,” said Schiano at his press conference on Aug. 30. The conversation about Revis stopped there, but take that to read as long as Revis stays at the level he is, he’ll play.
Revis wanted to play in a preseason game, possibly the third game in Miami against the Dolphins or the fourth game against the Washington Redskins. But the Buccaneers held him out just to be on the safe side as Revis recovered from knee surgery last year for a torn ACL.
Not only was holding Revis out a safe move, having him start for the first time against the Jets might be a fantastic idea.
There’s a revenge factor involved in Revis’ return to New York. If revenge isn’t the best word—and I stand by my guess that it likely is—just consider that no one wants to go back to where their career started and not show signs of improvement. How could Revis not want to show the Jets they made a huge mistake not giving him the contract he wanted?
The negotiations between Revis and the Jets were harried at best. That had been sort of the modus operandi between the two since the Jets drafted Revis, according to The Record.
But it certainly wasn’t the first time that had happened between the two sides. That actually was how their relationship began, with Revis missing the first 21 days of training camp in his rookie year of 2007 because of a contract dispute. Revis then held out in 2010, not signing until eight days before the regular-season opener.
It got so bad this time, however, that the Jets had to deal Revis. The Buccaneers came calling.
Now Tampa Bay is coming into the house Sunday where Revis spent six seasons making a name for himself (literally, Revis Island was a loving moniker). He spent six seasons showing the NFL he was the best cover corner in the business.
Now he wants to show the Jets he still is.
He’ll get that chance against a group of receivers that didn’t shine bright last season.
If Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is healthy, and that’s somewhat in question right now according to the New York Daily News, he’ll play alongside second-year receiver Stephen Hill. If Holmes cannot go, expect Jeremy Kerley to get the start.
Hill had the worst drop rate of any receiver in the NFL last season with at least 20 receptions, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Hill dropped just over 22 percent of the catchable passes that came his way in 2012. Kerley dropped four passes as well.
And the drops and frustrations haven’t stopped in preseason action this season, according to this ESPN report. Kerley’s dropped two passes from just seven catchable passes and Hill one of eight, according to Pro Football Focus.
To make matters worse, whichever combination of receivers is playing against Revis and the Buccaneers, a rookie quarterback will be throwing toward them. With Mark Sanchez injured, the New York Daily News is reporting that rookie Geno Smith should get the start.
In two preseason games Smith threw four interceptions and just one touchdown pass and connected with receivers 59.5 percent of the time. Historically, rookie quarterbacks starting Week 1 for their teams struggle.
Over the past five seasons 12 rookie quarterbacks have started the first game of their career in a Week 1 start. The results are a 5-7 record, but that’s the best news.
Of the 12, only three threw for 300 or more yards and only four threw more touchdowns than interceptions. As a group, the 12 passers averaged 220 yards passing per game and launched 19 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns.
To say the receiving corps and the quarterback situation for the Jets leaves a lot to be desired is an understatement. While that’s bad news for the guys in green, it’s good news for Revis, who will be testing his knee for the first time in live NFL action.
Having Revis in the defensive backfield will benefit the Buccaneers in more ways than just having a top-notch corner on the field. According to Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida, rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks will likely start Sunday in New York. If he can rely on Revis for help and advice on the field, his day may go better.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN thinks having Revis on the field will help the Buccaneers’ pedestrian pass rush.
Revis has the ability to shut down one side of the field. In theory, that should allow the Bucs the opportunity to bring extra pass rushers. That’s something that worked quite well for the New York Jets when they had Revis.
What does Revis have to look out for?
Injury expert Will Carroll of Bleacher Report spoke about Revis’ backpedal. Revis is going to have to react to whatever the receiver does, without the knowledge of what move comes next. This is in stark contrast to an offensive player coming back from a knee injury. At least the offensive player knows what move he’s trying to make before it happens.
Revis will also likely deal with fatigue. He hasn’t been on the field for an NFL game since Week 3 of the 2012 season. It’s going to take some time to regain that full-speed feel, and he’ll likely not play every down on defense just as a precaution.
It’s a plus that Revis will get that first taste of full-speed action against the Jets, and he’d better work out all the kinks in Week 1. Because Tampa Bay’s Week 2 opponent is Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.