Now, some Darrelle Revis news.
The headline of the Revis story, after a week of practicing, is this: Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik tells me he is “almost certain’’ the new Bucs cornerback will play opening day against the Jets in New Jersey in five weeks. That’s not much of a surprise; the Bucs have been encouraged by his progress from major knee surgery last fall and thought when they traded for him that he’d be ready to play at the start of the season.
I spoke with Revis, Dominik and coach Greg Schiano late in the week and, interestingly, Revis was probably the least optimistic of them all about his September readiness.
“At this time,’’ he said by phone from Tampa Friday, “I can’t tell you. But it is my goal to be ready for the first game, and it’s coming along well.’’
Revis said he has had no swelling in the knee; has been able to test it consistently; and that it has responded well to his testing, torquing and quick-twitch movements. He’s been on a strict training, conditioning and practice program that Schiano refuses to vary even if Revis reports he’s feeling great—which he has done.
Revis has been working against a camp receiver on the side, in both press coverage and off-coverage, running downfield and playing his physical style. “I don’t care how great a player you have been,’’ Schiano said. “Confidence is a funny thing. When you’re talking about a guy as good as Darrelle, you don’t think a guy needs to feel confident. But we just got [Pro Bowl guard] Carl Nicks back in live drills [from a serious 2012 toe injury], and he just stoned a defensive guy rushing hard. And you could see the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders. I mean, this is his livelihood. It’s the same with Darrelle. He needs to know he’ll be good when he gets into a game.”
So I asked Revis: Do you wonder how the knee’s going to react a month from now?
“Not really,’’ he said. “I’m very confident. Very. My mindset is, when they tell me I could cut, I figured it meant I could cut hard on it. I did, and it didn’t hurt and the knee didn’t swell. And I’ve been out there putting pressure on it and it hasn’t hurt. So I feel when I get out there, I’ll be confident I can do everything I need to.”
Schiano said he hasn’t decided whether Revis will play in a preseason game (it won’t be until the third game, at the earliest), but he sounded like he was leaning toward Revis not playing at all. “I don’t see playing in a preseason game as paramount,’’ Schiano said.
It also sounds like Schiano is okay with Revis going back out to Revis Island—taking the opponent’s best receiver one-on-one. It’s what Revis did to become the best corner in football in 2010 and 2011, and he expects to be able to do it again—with Schiano’s blessing.
“Coach and I have talked about it,’’ Revis said, “and he’s open to it. It’ll be predicated on the gameplan. But I think you’ll see it a lot. I might have to dust the cobwebs off, but it’s the way I play best. I’ve said, ‘Coach, this is the way I play best,’ and I think he agrees.”
I’ll be stunned if Revis is held out of the first game. Which, as you know, has a little bit of meaning for him. It’s against the Jets, in New Jersey, Sept. 8.
My must-have book of the preseason is out.
I’m a big fan of Football Outsiders Almanac, the incisive tome edited by FO boss Aaron Schatz that emerges from the shadows every preseason and tells us 587 things about the NFL we didn’t know. It’s a deep-think look at every team in the league, trends and players that tries to predict the unpredictable NFL future. For example, this year, longtime FO analyst Doug Farrar, recently hired to write for SI.com, says Washington’s play-action usage in 2012 was “more successful than any other team, with the league’s biggest difference in … yards per play (10.1 with play action, 5.5 without). There was no aspect of the Redskins’ offense that [Robert Griffin III] did not affect in a monumentally positive sense. Griffin is not just another Velveeta spread-boosted quarterback better outside the pocket than in it. Unlike Vince Young, Jake Locker, and (gasp) Tim Tebow, he is totally comfortable when asked to stand in the pocket, scan his reads, and fire the stick throw under pressure.’’ Farrar also reports Washington used the pistol 100 snaps more than the rest of the NFL combined.
Anyway, it’s a book any thinking football fan has to have. These notes prove it:
• Re athletic tight ends: It wasn’t Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham, or even Antonio Gates who lined up outside the traditional tight-end spot the most last year. Try Detroit’s Tony Scheffler, who lined up wide on 84 plays and in the slot on 278 plays.
• Brandon Marshall was targeted on 40.2% of Chicago’s passes last year, by far the most of any receiver since at least 1991.
• The 49ers in 2012 were better running from one-back sets (5.9 yards per carry) than two-back sets (4.3 yards per carry).
• We’ll have to wait to see if this was a one-year fluke, but the worst possible thing you could do last year was blitz RG3. He averaged 7.3 yards per play with three or four pass rushers, 9.0 yards per play with five, and a mind-blowing 13.1 yards per play against six or more pass rushers. Opponents may have understood this, because Griffin was blitzed less often than any other quarterback in the league (20% of pass plays).
• Brandon Weeden led the league with 24 passes batted down or tipped at the line, five more than any other quarterback.
Buy either the print or PDF version of the book here.