The New England Patriots have one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Now, they just need to continue to use him properly.
Former Patriots cornerback Ty Law knows a thing or two about that — he would often play man-to-man coverage while the rest of the team was in zone. Now, he is watching with pleasure with the way the Patriots have utilized Darrelle Revis in recent weeks — and the level of play he has shown as a result.
"It's been a joy to watch him the last few weeks to go out there and be able to do what he does best because he was totally out of place in Tampa Bay," Law said on a conference call on Wednesday. "That wasn't Darrelle Revis; that wasn’t the type of football that he likes to play. Where we’re from in Aliquippa, we called that cat coverage. I’ve got that cat, you got that cat, you got that cat, and that’s what we do. So, we’ve been doing this thing for a long time."
The Patriots have been criticized at times for misusing Revis as a zone cornerback instead of putting him in man coverage every play, but they have always run a versatile defensive scheme that asks its players to do different things every week based on the game plan.
Sometimes, Revis will be in zone — like he was against the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Other times, he will be in man coverage — as was the case against the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, and Buffalo Bills.
It's vastly different than what he's been asked to do in his previous two stops; he was in man coverage every down with the New York Jets, and in zone coverage almost all the time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Revis won't pitch a shutout every time, but he continues to be at his best when he lines up across from an opposing team's best receiver.
"He's going to be able to flourish here for as long as they continue to give him the responsibility and the challenge," Law said. "Darrelle needs a challenge. It's not a challenge for him to go into any game and play the average receiver, a mediocre receiver. The challenge for Darrelle to get him stimulated, he has to be on the guy. He wants to take him out. That's how you get the best out of Darrelle Revis. Are you going to lose some sometimes? Absolutely, absolutely. Those guys get paid, too. But he's going to win more than he's going to lose, and I think your best chance of getting the maximum performance out of Darrelle and your best chance to win a football game is to let him go out there, whether it's man or whether it's zone, play against that top dog because he's also going to make that quarterback think."
There will be plenty of opportunities for Revis to continue to flex those muscles this season, with receivers like Eric Decker (New York Jets), Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears), Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos), and Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions) still on the schedule.
Recent evidence suggests Revis will be up to the challenge.