By Jeff Capellini
Darrelle Revis is actually being viewed by some as a has-been right now.
Slow your roll, folks. It’s too soon for that kind of talk. Much too soon. The Jets have many problems, but I’m not sold that their best player is suddenly this great liability.
Revis appeared to age exponentially before our very eyes against Houston on Sunday as DeAndre Hopkins schooled him in a variety of ways throughout the Jets’ ugly 24-17 defeat. It was a shocking turn of events. We simply didn’t expect the perennial All-Pro to look like some guy signed off the street.
Yet, at times he did.
The lasting image from that terrible defeat, among the many that are now burned into the psyche of a fan base that is once again seeing its team’s season going off the rails, was that of their hero laying out helplessly in an attempt to prevent a long touchdown pass from landing in Hopkins’ hands.
It was stunning. It was like when Douglas knocked out Tyson. You had to question what you were seeing.
I’m sure it made many question Mike Maccagnan’s sanity for giving a 30-year-old cornerback a five-year, $70 million contract that includes $39 million guaranteed. Forget for a second that all those people now second-guessing the move were lauding the rookie general manager for doing what many thought needed to be done off a 4-12 season that cost his predecessor and the previous coaching regime their jobs.
The Jets might have made some mistakes this offseason as far as the contracts they shelled out, but the Revis deal, in my opinion, was not one of them. He remains an important part of the franchise, capable of doing his job like he did it before.
There’s no denying Revis had a bad day against Houston, one that was compounded by a concussion that has his status for Sunday’s game against Miami at MetLife Stadium in question.
But assuming he’s good to go, I don’t think you need to worry all that much. After all, Hopkins is really the only guy who has worked him over all season.
Revis deserves the benefit of the doubt because I find it hard to believe that his demise will be precipitous. Yes, he’s struggled at times this season, usually on an overly focused-on play or two here and there, but he’s been too good for too long to just disappear from relevance in the span of a few weeks. Let’s not forget that Revis was considered an early favorite for Defensive Player of the Year after recording three interceptions and three fumble recoveries over the Jets’ first five games.
And now he’s done? C’mon.
Not to make excuses for Revis — Lord knows he’s had the world’s biggest bull’s-eye on his back forever — but Hopkins has been feasting on corners across the league all season, as evidenced by his 76 catches, 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games. Along with the unbelievable Julio Jones and ridiculous Antonio Brown, Hopkins is one of the poster boys for the NFL’s reputation as a passing league extraordinaire.
Maybe it was just Revis’ turn to take a beating.
But that doesn’t mean he’s washed up. He’s just finally reached a stage of his career where he needs some help. And the Jets better give it to him in the form of rolling safety coverage.
Revis still has the agility and vision to get the job done, and don’t underestimate the power of embarrassment. My guess is the scene that unfolded inside NRG Stadium on Sunday will go a long way toward motivating a player who normally wouldn’t blink in the face of a challenge, the guy most often left on his own to a do a job that is among the most difficult in sports.
Revis deserves the benefit of the doubt until the time comes when it’s obvious to even a blind man that he just doesn’t have it anymore, and even then the knives should be dulled a bit because at half of what he was he’ll probably still be better than the majority of everyone else.
We’re not there yet, everybody. Chill with the eulogies.
But that said, Jets head coach Todd Bowles really needs to adjust his schemes so Revis isn’t always left alone on his island. Of the six games left on their schedule, the Jets will face at least four teams with a top-notch receiver. Though I don’t consider the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry among the elite wideouts the Jets still have to deal with, he does have 63 receptions and the ability to make big plays. However, he’s gone over 100 yards receiving only once this season and that happened way back in Week 2 against Jacksonville.
Landry caught four passes for 40 yards against the Jets during the game in London back on Oct. 4. This after hauling in eight in each of his first three games. Revis played a big role in that shutdown and the Jets won easily.
But you can bet every last dollar you have that offensive coordinators league-wide have seen the Texans tape and will now be even more aggressive in Revis’ direction, something that seemed unheard of for years leading up to a few weeks ago.
After Landry, Revis will certainly be tested by the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. on Dec. 2, followed by likely assignments against Dallas’ Dez Bryant (with Tony Romo) on Dec. 19, New England’s Danny Amendola on Dec. 27 (possibly will Julian Edelman still out) and Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins to close the regular season on Jan. 3. Revis held Watkins to just three catches for 14 yards back on Nov. 12.
If Bowles is doing his job, he won’t ask his aging superstar to do his alone. I have to figure safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor will be shuffled over to Revis’ side of the field from time to time to protect over the top. It’s the right thing to do, at least until Revis goes full lockdown mode again on someone of note.
The Jets probably still have a lot of confidence in No. 24, but they simply cannot afford to play it any other way. They are 5-5 and clearly on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff race. Right now, they have to be a sum of their parts, not rely on an army of one.
Overall, the Jets have bigger problems than Revis morphing into a mere mortal. This is a team that hasn’t run the ball well in weeks, and is not getting the sacks and pressures from the defensive line that it absolutely has to have to remain a legitimate threat. If the Jets were still doing both at a high level, the pressure on the secondary wouldn’t be anything like it is now.
A lot has been made of all the money the Jets spent to fix the back end of their defense, but if they don’t do what they are built to do — in this case running the football and owning the point of attack on defense — there are going to be problems, regardless of the size of the checks owner Woody Johnson writes. I think the Jets have to get their offensive line in order, Chris Ivory needs to stay on the field and the defensive front seven has to get its act in gear, pronto.
Those are much greater concerns than Revis losing a step. But for those of you out there truly concerned about whether there will be any inhabitants on the island going forward, I’ll leave you with this:
We’re talking about an extremely prideful player in Revis. You don’t think he was mortified by what went down in Houston? I’m sure he’s kicking himself right now.
But the one thing he’s probably not doing is harping too much on his NFL mortality. To borrow a baseball cliche, Revis has lost a bit off his fastball. But like a once hard-throwing ace, he has to reinvent his game a bit.
It will be fascinating to watch how he adjusts over the final six weeks of the season. If the Jets are smart, they won’t just be observers during the transformation.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet