On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis will make his first start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that acquired him in a blockbuster trade just before the NFL Draft this past April. At the same time, Revis will be making his first-ever appearance against the New York Jets, the team that drafted him 14th overall in 2007 and watched him blossom into the league's best cornerback.
The Buccaneers and the Jets each had their own reasons for the Revis deal, which cost Tampa Bay its first-round pick this year and a conditional pick next year, and New York is certainly not looking back. Still, there's no denying that the addition of Revis makes the Buccaneers' defense more challenging for any opponent, and the Jets just happen to be up first.
Fortunately for the Jets and their Head Coach, Rex Ryan, they have some experience facing the star defensive back – and even a special set of Revis-centric guidelines – from six years on the practice field. Discussing Revis's almost immediate "homecoming" on Wednesday, Ryan agreed that preparing for Revis is almost like preparing for an opposing offensive player, in that you actually worry about defending against him.
“It should be ‘How do you attack him?’" said Ryan. "But you’re right, it’s probably more about how you defend against him. Certainly you have to look at him different than you look at any other corner. He had a tendency to – we used to call it – 'boomerang him,' and we had some ‘Revis Rules’ that you don’t break. He’s rare. Like I say, a guy like him comes around once every 15, 20 years, if that. He really is a special player.”
The special rules are obviously designed to keep quarterbacks from taking certain risks that would be acceptable against most cornerbacks but are often deadly against Revis. Obviously, the Jets grew to love when their opponents would break those rules over the past six years, and Ryan knows the Buccaneers will enjoy the same benefits to their defense in 2013.
“[One] Revis rule is, you better not throw it from the far hash outside the numbers, because he’ll pick it," said Ryan. "That’s one of them. There’s several of them. And Tampa will learn that about him; the opponents will learn that about him.”
Even though Revis and the Jets parted ways in April, Ryan has been nothing but complimentary about his former ace in the defensive hole. He clearly appreciated his former charge's competitiveness in every game and practice field, fondly remembering that Revis didn't even like to let opposing receivers catch passes during walk-throughs.
"Obviously Darrelle was the premier corner in football – a physical player that shows up every day to compete," said Ryan, recalling his four years of overlap with Revis. "He’s an excellent teammate. He’s just tougher than heck. It was a joy to coach him, I can tell you that much. Like I say, he’s a great teammate. He probably leads a little differently; he’s not as vocal, but every single teammate will recognize what he does. He is a tremendous competitor and obviously one of the rare guys that you coach.”
That said, Ryan is more than familiar with the passions and loyalties of New York fans, and he expects Revis to get mixed signals from the Jets crowd on Sunday.
“I think certainly Jets fans respect the contributions that he made to our football team, there’s no question about that," said Ryan. "I know how much they respect and admire him. But, hey, he’s in enemy colors now. So it will be interesting.”
Indeed, and it will be equally interesting to see how successfully the Jets can follow their 'Revis Rules' on Sunday.