Eagle Eye: Getting Past Darrelle Revis

What makes the Jets cornerback so tough to beat?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

During the 2014 regular season, the Jets snatched six interceptions. Through two games this year, they already have four.

The biggest difference in their secondary? Bringing back All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis in the offseason.

From Tampa Bay to New England, and now back to New York, Revis has made a living shutting down opponents’ top wide receivers. He’s picked up 24 interceptions through 58 career games, and his return to the Jets’ secondary has made it one of the most formidable units in the league.

“He basically has all the qualities and attributes that you’d want in a corner,” Miles Austin said, “or in any player.”

What, exactly, are those attributes? We talked to Austin, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor to find out.

1. He’s extremely athletic.

While he stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 189 pounds—which is on the lower end of Chip Kelly’s preferred defensive back measurables—Revis plays receivers tight largely because of his athleticism.

“He’s stronger than you think, faster than you think, and very natural in all of his movements,” Matthews said. “He’s extremely athletic, and he’s got great ball skills.”

In this first example, Revis is lined up against Dez Bryant on the left side of the field in his second matchup against Austin’s Cowboys. This is a great example of the corner’s fluid movements.

Bryant runs a deep comeback route in single coverage, and with a well-placed ball, this route is tough to defend.

But Revis stays with Bryant—a much larger player—stride for stride down the sideline, and then stops on a dime when Bryant makes his pin turn to look for the ball. Romo was flushed out of the pocket and sacked on this play, but Revis sticks to Bryant like glue throughout the route.

2. He’s aggressive, but smart.

Revis is also noted for being a fairly aggressive corner, which could get other defensive backs in trouble. But Revis studies plenty of tape on the receivers he’s going up against, to the point where he knows what to expect on most plays, almost before they begin.

“He studies really well,” Matthews said with a smile.

On this play, Revis is lined up on the right side of the field in single coverage against T.Y. Hilton. Single coverage in the red zone is tough, especially on fade routes, and especially against a quarterback as talented as Andrew Luck.

But Revis plays Hilton tight from the line of scrimmage because he understands where Hilton is going with his route, which means he’s able to play closer to his receiver without fear of getting beat on an unforeseen move.

Revis sticks with Hilton through the end of the route and bats the ball away, even as Luck delivers a pretty good pass.

3. He recovers quickly.

One of the common threads between each player in their evaluation of Revis was that he doesn’t get beaten easily, but if he does, you can bet he’ll come back at you on the very next play.

“[Revis] is extremely consistent, play in and play out,” Matthews said. “There’s never a play you can ever think you’ve got him. I’ve seen guys make a play on him, and with most corners you think, ‘Oh, stick a fork in him,’ because you’re going to be able to gain momentum. But he’s right back the next play, causing a fumble or an interception. He’s not shaken.”

Beating Revis on any given play is one of the hardest things an NFL wide receiver could attempt. Doing it multiple times in one game is downright herculean.

But Agholor offered an idea as to how he might try to get a bead on Revis. He said one of the keys against a physical, aggressive cornerback like Revis is to win the battle in the first five yards, where Revis will try to jam receivers and get them off their routes.

“When you win at the line of scrimmage, you put the secondary guys in a bind, because now they’re in a trail technique,” Agholor said.

Then again, against Revis, that’s easier said than done.