NEPD Staff Writer: Jason Cappell
When John Elway and the Denver Broncos poached Aqib Talib there was a brief state of panic that struck Patriots fans. But with Bill Belichick you can always count on a contingency plan. Not only did Belichick find a way to replace Talib but he also upgraded at the cornerback position in five time Pro Bowler Darelle Revis.
In 2014 opponents may face the best defense the Patriots have fielded in the past decade. For those keeping tabs don’t forget that it was exactly 10 years ago Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won the Super Bowl.
For a defense that ranked 26th in 2013, allowing 373.1 yards per game, Revis will have every opportunity to be a game changer in New England. Not only do the Patriots now have an elite corner eager to prove he’s the best of the bunch, but they’ve also provided Bill Belichick the ammunition needed to once again prove that defense wins championships.
Naysayers may say that Revis is a step slower, but it’s important to realize that in 2013 he was essentially rehabilitating from an ACL injury that wiped out his 2012 campaign. People always talk about how well athletes perform in their second year after ACL surgery, but that may not even be what gets Patriots fans most excited. With Tom Brady nearing the end of his incredible career, it’s the timing of the Patriots blockbuster signing that reaffirms their desire to win the Super Bowl.
With Revis in the secondary, Belichick will have more flexibility than he’s perhaps ever had. If you thought Aqib Talib’s coverage skills were vital to the Patriots last year then just wait until Belichick unleashes Revis. As long as he stays healthy, Revis is bound to personally improve, but more importantly, he’s also likely to change the entire identity of the Patriots’ secondary.
Just stop for a second and think about the multitude of options a chess piece like Revis can create for Belichick’s defense…
The Pats may try to emulate the Seahawks secondary, with Revis playing Richard Sherman’s left corner role and Brandon Browner eventually lining up on the right side as he did last season in Seattle. With Revis exclusively on the left side, he could eliminate half the field and force the opposing quarterback into being far more predictable.
After all, the NFL is a copycat league, and it wouldn’t be such a crazy idea for the Patriots to play a lot of zone coverage, seeing how well that strategy worked for the defending champs. The Patriots are well aware of the fact Brandon Browner never has played left cornerback in the NFL, and still hasn’t done so in training camp.
Then again it’s also entirely possible Bill Belichick will take a page from Rex Ryan and put Revis on an “island” where he lines up against the opposition’s top receiver. With all the great wide-outs the Patriots are set to face in the NFC North, this would also be a logical game plan. Regardless of where Revis lines up in Belichick’s defense, it’s clear that his arrival, along with the return of veterans Jerrod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, will have a ripple effect and vastly improve the entire team.
As a 2nd-team All-Pro in 2013, safety Devin McCourty has the chance to be even better in 2014. McCourty can now freely roam the field and showcase his ball hawking skills, as he will have the opportunity to gamble more often on the back end.
In addition, as Revis forces quarterbacks to second-guess themselves in the pocket, the defensive line should improve. As a result, defensive end Chandler Jones may become even more of a threat after his 11.5 sacks last year.
It’s not just the defense that benefits from Revis, the offense may too. Revis’ mere presence alone in practice forces Tom Brady to become an even better decision maker and more accurate passer. Revis’ smothering coverage skills will also force young inexperienced receivers like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins to get better.
With Revis’ shut down abilities on full display, the Patriots defense that was maligned by injuries last year will have a new found swagger it hasn’t had in years.
It’s well known that the injury riddled 2013 Patriots weren’t good enough to get past Denver when it mattered most. Even with a gifted and decorated quarterback like Tom Brady, it’s next to impossible to win another Super Bowl relying on offense alone. Yes the NFL has become a passing league, but no quarterback is good enough to do it all by themselves. Peyton Manning managed to orchestrate the NFL’s most prolific offense in league history last season, but not even the future Hall of Famer could get past the vaunted Seahawks defense in Super Bowl XLVIII. Not to mention Brady came up short to a stout New York Giants defense in both 2007 and 2011.
For years now the Patriots’ pass defense has been their Achilles heel. New England hasn’t had a cornerback since Ty Law who could single handedly alter the outcome of a game. But Darelle Revis can be that guy, maybe even better. After all, with Revis Island relocating to Foxboro, the options for Belichick and the Patriots seem endless.
Tags: Darrelle Revis