The Boston Globe's Ben Volin has posed an interesting idea that few people are talking about: What if Darrelle Revis isn't used to cover the opposing team's #1 option?
Through the start of camp, this notion isn't too far-fetched. The team hasn't had Revis square off solely against the Patriots defacto #1 receiver Julian Edelman, but instead they've relegated him to covering the left half of the field (the quarterback's right side). Volin thinks the strategy is linked to Brandon Browner's utilization as a right cornerback in Seattle, while Richard Sherman played on the left side.
The initial response is to groan and wonder why the Patriots are misusing Revis. A more thorough review might lend some more credibility to this concept.
Point 1: Keeping Revis on the left side isn't wasting his talents. Revis is so good because of his man coverage ability and how he can run with any receiver on the field. Keeping him on the left side won't waste that skill. The issue in Tampa Bay is the use of zone coverage which, while Revis still managed to thrive, is a waste of that skill. Revis can still play tight man coverage if he's kept at the left cornerback (LCB) role. It just means he'll be eliminating that receiver from the map.
Point 2: It benefits the other cornerbacks. Not only does it allow Browner to remain comfortable at right cornerback (RCB), but it allows the team to have specialists for a specific side of the field. Logan Ryan was primarily a LCB at Rutgers and could be Revis' back-up. Dennard, Browner, and Arrington are typically placed at RCB.
Of these corners, Dennard and Browner thrive when able to use the sideline to their advantage. By having Revis stay at LCB, the other corners can keep the right sideline for their own benefit.
Point 3: Pairing Revis up with the opposing #1 receiver is great, but it might make more sense for him to face the #2. Why? Revis can no doubt compete and limit the top receivers, but he can annihilate their second best target. An easier match-up for Revis would allow rising star safety Devin McCourty to cheat over towards the RCB and provide additional assistance.
With Revis blanketing the opposing #2, and the RCB and McCourty giving additional focus to the opposing #1, that limits the opposing offense to their spare pieces. That's possibly the most comfortable outcome for the secondary.
Point 4: It simplifies the playbook while still allowing for greater scheme versatility. Belichick loves when he defenses can be flexible, and that means an improved ability to both play tight man, zone, off-man, and a whole array of other match-ups. With Revis remaining on the left side starting alignments are already set, while the team can still break into a reliable zone or man defense at a moment's notice.
Point 5: Big plays will be harder to come by for the opposing offense. Everyone can remember when Josh Gordon burned Aqib Talib on man coverage in the open field, or when Demaryius Thomas was too dominant for Dennard to cover in the playoffs. By offering a mixture of man and zone concepts, the Patriots will be able to contain the receivers and emulate the successful Seahawks secondary.
So don't fear- we still haven't even seen if Revis is actually staying on the left side, or if Belichick is still just teaching concepts to a bunch of new players in the system. But even if Revis is entirely a LCB, it might not be such a bad idea.