Before a deal had been finalized, before the All-Pro cornerback had even set foot in the building at One Buc Place, the future appeared much brighter at the thought of Darrelle Revis in a Buccaneer jersey.
And now that dream is a reality.
Revis arrived in Tampa Sunday afternoon to complete a physical before agreeing to a six-year deal that finalizes a trade with the New York Jets.
It’s a move that instantly makes the Bucs a contender, given Revis’ track record against the team’s opponents in 2013, opponents he’s played a total of 32 times in his career. The Bucs’ schedule features nine of the league’s top 20 receivers, and Revis knows them all quite well.
Calvin Johnson, who shattered legend Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record, tops that list. When Revis faced off against Megatron in 2010, Revis covered him the entire game and allowed just one catch for 13 yards. The Jets won 23-20.
In 2012, prior to suffering the torn ACL, Revis shut down and picked off Bills receiver Steve Johnson, who had the 18th most receiving yards and catches in the league last year. Johnson was targeted 10 times but managed just 4 catches, one of which was a touchdown that came after Revis left the field with a head injury.
In Revis’ only other appearance last year, he recovered a fumble by Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas. Revis also helped contain Reggie Bush, now with the Lions, before suffering the season-ending injury in that game. Tampa Bay faces Miami on Monday Night Football this year.
Brian Hartline was among that list of the league’s top 20 receivers, but he was defended by Antonio Cromartie that day. Still, Revis has studied Hartline’s moves and is familiar with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Not to mention, Revis used to play with newly-acquired Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller.
And then there is New England, a team he has faced nine times in his career as a divisional opponent and beaten four times, including the 2010 divisional title game in which the Jets won 28-21.
Revis battled a hamstring injury that season but still managed to contend with the likes of Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, who has since departed for the Broncos, and Deion Branch.
Other players on that list who the Bucs will see next year include Roddy White, who Revis squared up against in a 2009 matchup, in addition to covering tight end Tony Gonzalez. White had 4 catches but was targeted 10 times. Gonzalez was targeted 10 times but caught just 3 passes. Revis nearly picked him off in the end zone. Of course that was prior to the arrival of Julio Jones, and my guess is, Revis will line up against him next.
In 2009, Revis and the Jets faced the Saints and lost 24-10. But it wasn’t Marques Colston, Brees’ go-to target in the end zone, or Devery Henderson who led the team in receptions that game. It was running back Pierre Thomas. Even back then, Revis was eliminating team-leading receivers.
Revis squared off against Steve Smith that year and recorded two interceptions. Revis took a short pass that bounced off the foot of the Panthers veteran and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and in the second quarter intercepted a deep pass intended for Smith. How’s that for impact?
And that’s exactly what the Buccaneers needed – a true game-changer who can not only re-direct traffic on the field, but significantly impact the outcome of a game and to put opponents on notice.
Remember when Eli Manning and the Giants annihilated the Bucs for 510 yards passing last year, putting up 25 points in the fourth quarter alone?
Or what about when Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles rolled out to find an untouched Jeremy Maclin in the end zone, scoring a game-winning touchdown that shattered what remained of playoff hopes in Tampa Bay?
The Saints scored 41 unanswered points against a deflated Bucs team that next week. Would Revis have allowed that to happen?
What about the one-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons at home, when Julio Jones caught six passes for 147 yards receiving and a touchdown?
Or when Sam Bradford connected with Lance Kendricks on a stunning 80-yard touchdown to open up the second half against the Rams? Do you think that play would have caught Revis by surprise? I don’t think so.
Nor do I think Revis and the Bucs will catch anyone by surprise this season if they do emerge as a contender. In fact, I bet he’s already giving offensive coordinators in the NFC South headaches. He has yet to take the field for one snap, or prove he’s fully recovered from the knee injury. But he’s just that good.