As we count down to the NFL season, Sports Jerks is bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.
Today’s feature team and question?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Will Darrelle Revis return to form?
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rebounded from their disastrous 4-12 campaign in 2011. The team’s 7-9 mark wasn’t good enough to reach the playoffs last year, but the Bucs lost six of those games by a touchdown or less. Three of those defeats were by a total of five points. The Buccaneers may not have been a playoff team, but were agonizingly close to a ten-win year.
The problem child for the franchise last season was their woeful pass defense. Tampa Bay allowed teams to throw for nearly 300 yards per game. The 297.4 yards by opposing quarterbacks was good enough to place them as the worst in the league. Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t all bad, though. The run defense anchored by a strong defensive line was the stingiest in the NFL, giving up only 82.5 rushing yards per game.
To blame the poor pass defense entirely on the secondary would be short-sighted. The Buccaneers collected only 27 sacks ranking near the bottom of the NFL and didn’t get nearly enough pressure on quarterbacks. Still, the secondary was assigned a good portion of the blame at the end of the year. To help alleviate problems in the struggling unit, Tampa Bay made a bold move with the acquisition of former Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The trade wasn’t exactly cheap. Tampa Bay forked over their No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft and also a conditional 4th round selection in 2014. Trades don’t often happen in the NFL and giving up a high first-round selection is even rarer. In addition, Tampa Bay is paying Revis nearly $100 million for the next six seasons – the highest amount ever for a defensive back. To get an elite player, though, the Buccaneers figured it was worth the exorbitant price.
If Revis becomes the player he was, it will be.
Revis is fresh off major knee surgery, but was arguably the best cornerback in the league before he went down with an ACL injury. He has been ranked in the NFL Network’s top ten players heading into each of the last two seasons and is a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
Many point to Revis’ interception totals for a reason he is overrated. However, it’s nearly impossible to gauge the effectiveness of a defensive back based purely on his statistics. After Revis’ breakout seasons in 2008 and 2009 with 11 interceptions, quarterbacks simply ceased to throw the ball in his direction. The following year in 2010, Revis made only 26 tackles and defended only nine attempts. His zero interceptions were more of an indication that teams were avoiding him altogether than an indictment of his playing ability.
Quarterbacks again tested the waters against him in 2011 and were burned. He picked off four passes and ran one back for a 100-yard touchdown while successfully defending a total of 21 of them. Revis was as dangerous as ever and expected to produce similar results last year. After picking off a pass in the season opener and recovering a fumble in his second contest, Revis tore his ACL and was out for the year.
Currently, he’s still recovering, but recently participated in 7-on-7 drills for the first time in Bucs training camp. Revis could play as soon as a late preseason game but may sit out to prepare for the regular season. By all indications, though, he should be ready to contribute early this year and improve the secondary that struggled so much last year.
If the cornerback were a bit older, there would be more to worry about regarding his ability to recover. However, having just turned 28, Revis should have several more productive seasons ahead of him.
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