Darrelle Revis is a man on a mission — a mission to prove that his name belongs amid the pantheon of top defensive backs in the NFL once again. The last time anyone has seen Revis perform at a level even close to what we’re accustomed to was when he was donned the white and green of the New York Jets. It was with that team that he suffered what was once considered a career-threatening ACL injury. While the odds are certainly against him becoming the best corner back in the league this season, the Bucs do not necessarily need him to become “Revis Island” again nor should they expect him to. But perhaps “Revis Peninsula” isn’t too much to ask for.
With the addition of Dashon Goldon at safety, Revis isn’t the only one being relied upon to counter the big time receivers the Bucs will be competing against on any given Sunday. He give a five year, $41 million contract to make sure that Revis and the other corner backs have quality help over the top. Goldson is also a solid tackler with good hands. He recorded 69 tackles to go along with 3 interceptions while with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ secondary gave up 4,758 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and an average quarterback rating of 93.5 to their opponents in 2012. The truth is in the numbers, and the truth hurts. The numbers say the 7-9 record the Buccaneers labored through last season could have easily been a 9-7 record or 10-6 playoff team if it were not for their almost record-breaking awful pass defense. The offseason signing of Darrelle Revis to a incentive-laden six year, $96 million contract looms large is but one of many moves designed to help establish Tampa Bay as a team to be reckoned with.
In fifth-year starter Josh Freeman, coach Greg Schiano has a quarterback who is better than anyone outside of Tampa Bay would like to recognize. But maybe they should reconsider, Freeman threw for a career-high 4,065 yards last year. Though his 81.6 passer rating was light years removed from the pristine 2010 campaign in which he sported a rating of 95.9 and a career-low six interceptions, but it was still much better than 2011. Josh Freeman has more weapons at his disposal than now ever with wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. He also has the luxury of handing off to second year running back Doug Martin. At 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds, Martin is proof that a beast by any measure is still a beast. His 1,454 running yards speaks volumes as well.
It appears as though the offense has loaded up on the necessary weapons needed to try and shift the balance of power in the NFC South, but when you are in as high-powered a division as the one the Bucs find themselves you have to at least break even with your rivals as far as wins and losses are concerned. Some wins will be due to the growing maturity of their offense, but if they find themselves simply trying to out gun the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints on a night in, night out Tampa Bay is going to lose more often than not. Defense is at a premium, and the importance of a secure secondary cannot be over stated.
Fans are usually able to tell whether or not their favorite team is the real deal or a real dud by Week 8 of the NFL season. The importance of Revis can be hammered home when we look at Santonio Holmes, Marques Colton, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steve Smith within the first two months of the season. Last year, the Bucs secondary couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper back with scissors in their hands. Things have to be different this year. They just have to be. Cam Newton is a year older and likely a year better; Drew Brees has been relegated by some as only the fourth best quarterback in the league and I am sure he’s dying to prove otherwise and Matt Ryan just won his first playoff game last year and is salivating for an encore. Third-string cornerbacks are just not going to get it done in the NFC South. It’s imperative the Bucs’ defensive backs stay healthy and moderately effective for the entire year; that goes doubly so for Darrelle Revis.