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Bill Belichick on Darrelle Revis: ‘Definitely looks like he’s back and playing well’

09.17.13 at 3:13 pm ET
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Bill Belichick has seen enough of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis over the years to know what kind of impact he can have on a team’s secondary. In the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s a significant improvement.

Revis’ presence figures to be particularly important this week as the Buccaneers may or may not have star safety Dashon Goldson, who is appealing his one-game suspension for a hit on Saints back Darren Sproles.

Revis is coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee he suffered with the Jets in Sept. 2012. The Buccaneers took a chance that he would be close to 100 percent when the ’13 season rolled around. Last week against the Saints, Revis played 70 of 73 snaps on defense, a sign that he is close to full strength after playing just 53 of 75 snaps in Week 1 against his former team.
Is that a sign that Revis is ready to reclaim Revis Island?

“Yeah, he’€™s good,” Belichick said Tuesday in a conference call. “I thought he played well against the Jets with some limited playing time ‘€“ not limited, but I’€™d say he played about two-thirds of the game, something like that. Then of course this past week, he played almost every snap against New Orleans. It definitely looks like he’€™s back and playing well.”

Last week, the Bucs lost the game as the Saints drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired. But they did intercept Drew Brees twice, including an 85-yard return by Mason Foster that gave Tampa Bay a fourth-quarter lead. Brees completed 26-of-46 passes for 322 yards but only a touchdown and 67.5 quarterback rating.

In the six seasons with the Jets, Revis was a cornerstone of the Jets’ secondary, with his reputation for man-to-man shutdown defense, creating the “Revis Island” legend. He is 3-6 in nine career games against the Patriots, including 2-5 against Tom Brady with two interceptions. Now, the Bucs are mixing it up, throwing in some zone and blitz schemes.

“They mix it up,” Belichick said. “They play plenty of man. They blitz, they play man, they play zone ‘€“ they play everything. They do a good job mixing it up; you see it all back there.”

“When they’€™re in nickel, after they got Revis back, then it was Revis and [Leonard] Johnson and they bring [Johnthan] Banks in and Johnson goes inside and plays at the inside spot. When they go to six defensive backs, then they bring [Mark] Barron down and put [Ahmad] Black in at safety. Then Barron kind of plays like a linebacker when they go to dime but in their nickel package, it’€™s almost always three corners, not three safeties. But when they go to their dime stuff, then it’€™s three safeties with Barron playing at linebacker level and three corners, the same three corners.”

Belichick also detailed how Tampa Bay’s secondary looks when they go with six defensive backs or the so-called dime package.

“When the Saints went to their three wide receiver, one tight end package, they brought [Mark] Barron down a decent amount,” Belichick said of the safety who plays a lot like a linebacker. “They were in dime a decent amount, it was like 40 plays or something like that, it was a pretty good number of plays, maybe it’€™s in the 30s. But anyway, they brought Barron down and matched him up a number of times on [Jimmy] Graham. But [Lavonte] David does a good job too when they’€™re in nickel. David is a good cover linebacker and [Mason] Foster and Jonathan [Casillas]. They’€™ve got good depth at linebacker and good depth in the secondary; good depth on the defensive line too for that matter. This is a good defensive football team; probably as good as any we’€™ve seen or will see. They’€™re good in the secondary, they’€™re good at linebacker and they’€™re good up front. They’€™re well coached and have a good scheme. They’€™re very good defensively, no question.”

Belichick was asked if he laughs at the schedule-makers who scheduled a Patriots match-up with Revis just three weeks into the season, just like the divisional games with the Jets.

“Well, at least we only have to play against him once, hopefully,” Belichick said. “Well, hopefully we’€™ll play against him twice but no, I mean we’€™re seeing him once.”

Here is the rest of Belichick’s conference call with reporters from Tuesday:

BB: Really follow-up from yesterday, moving along on Tampa. I’€™m really impressed with a lot of the things they’€™re doing in all three phases of the game. They’€™ve got some really outstanding players; some real good quality players. They play very aggressively in all three phases of the game. They’€™re well coached and have a good scheme. We have a lot to get ready for this week.

Q: What traits do you see from Josh Freeman that make him a capable starting quarterback?

BB: Athletic, does a good job in the pocket; he’€™s a hard guy to get down. He runs well, you have to be very disciplined with your rush lanes. They roll him out a decent amount with bootlegs and sprint-out plays, things like that. He’€™s got a great arm, big, tall guy that can see over the line; makes all the throws. We saw that in practice and we’€™ve seen it in the games. He can really get the ball down the field on the in-cuts, middle reads, seam routes, go routes, post patterns, all that. He has a nice touch around the line of scrimmage, too. He has all the skill. It looks like he’€™s definitely improved in terms of his overall presence on the field, handling the team and all those things, from when we saw him in ‘€™09 in London to working against him last year in practice to seeing him this year in games and practices. He’€™s been in a couple real competitive situations in the fourth quarter and has done what the team needed him to do. They’€™ve had good drives, put them ahead in the Jet game and also ran off some clock. I don’€™t know five minutes or however much time it was in the Saints game where he had to make some big throws there at the end ‘€“ third-and-longs ‘€“ and he made them. I think he’€™s doing a good job for them.

Q: They’€™ve done a good job generating pressure on the quarterback with the linebackers and a little bit from the secondary. Have you seen that and do you think they blitz and bring more pressure than Buffalo and New York did or more than you see on average?

BB: Again, they do a good job mixing it up. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’€™t. Sometimes they change their defenses based on what you do offensively, what formation you’€™re in or what kind of motion or that type of thing, what kind of set you give them. You can see at times that they’€™re trying to get to whatever it is they want to be in. I think you just have to be ready for everything and you have to be alert and read it out. I don’€™t think you can sit there and really predict what they’€™re going to do because they have a nice mixture. I think that’€™s one of the things that makes them so good defensively. They have a lot of good players, they play hard, they play with good technique and they have a good scheme, they’€™re well coached and they definitely keep you off-balance. You have to be ready to deal with a lot of different types of defense and certainly if they find something that’€™s going well, then they’€™re not afraid to keep dialing that up until you can show that you can do something about it. They do a good job mixing it up, real good.

Q: When you were at Nebraska, you met with some of the guys that were coming out that year. What do you remember from your meeting with Lavonte David? In terms of size, he’€™s not the biggest linebacker, so how did you envision him fitting here, in terms of not being the prototype linebacker that we’€™ve seen from your team?

BB: The two players I spent the most time with there were David and [Alfonzo] Dennard. David, I’€™d say, I envisioned him in the same way that Tampa plays him. He’€™s their Will linebacker. He’€™s very fast. He’€™s a very productive player. I think he had over 100 tackles last year, or whatever it was. He makes a lot of plays. He runs well, he covers well. I think he’€™s really good as a sub linebacker. He’€™s good as a regular linebacker but he’€™s very good as a sub linebacker. He’€™s got excellent range. I know at Nebraska, he also played middle linebacker there and of course his senior year, they were in the Big Ten and the year before they were in whatever the other conference was called [Big 12], the old Big Eight, but anyway, his junior year, he played against a lot of spread offenses. I mean, almost every team was three and four wide receiver shotgun. It was all spread so you could really seem him run and cover and have to defend a lot of space, run with slot receivers and really play a very spread out game. Then the following year, his senior season, when they played in the Big Ten, they were seeing a lot of teams like Wisconsin and Penn State and teams like that that were more one and two tight ends and fullbacks and more of a power-type offense. You really saw a player play against two different conferences and two different pretty dramatic styles of play. He played very well in both of them and did a great job. I think he’€™s been an excellent player for Tampa in his rookie season and it looks like the first couple games this year. It’€™s the same thing, he’€™s a little, I’€™d say not as tall as some other linebackers, but he runs well, he’€™s an explosive player and very instinctive player, he can find the ball. He’€™s taken that same production he had in college and that’€™s showing up for the Bucs. He’€™s also good in the kicking game, which he was there too.

Q: This defense had a lot of negative plays in its rushing defense the last couple years. How reflective is that of that quickness? Is this a quicker unit than most defenses in the league?

BB: Right, their negative plays were last year, you’€™re talking about the ‘€™12 season and so far this year because in ‘€™11, they were a bad rushing defense. But no, this past year’€¦yeah, again I think it’€™s a combination of good players, good coaching, good scheme. They’€™re very active up front. [Gerald] McCoy is a real hard guy to block. Really they rotate a lot of people in there; [Akeem] Spence has done a good job for them. They rotate in [Gary] Gibson and of course [Daniel] Te’€™o-Nesheim and [Da'€™Quan] Bowers and the ends; Trevor [Scott] is playing some for them in there too. They rotate those guys. They’€™re quick, they’€™re active, they really play with good technique, good pad level, they play low, they get a lot of plays from the backside because of their speed and pursuit. If you don’€™t do things just absolutely right against them with the offensive line or your tackles and tight ends or whatever combination blocks you’€™re trying to make ‘€“ the whole team blocks or the zone blocks or whatever they are ‘€“ they end up splitting those blocks or they eat up two guys and you can’€™t get one of your blockers off to their linebackers and then [Mason] Foster or [Lavonte] David or Dekoda Watson or whoever it is, one of those guys run through. They’€™re all very fast. Dekoda Watson is very fast and David is fast. It doesn’€™t really take much for them, if they get a half-step on the lineman or the fullback or a tight end who doesn’€™t quite have position on them then they just outrun them and track the ball carrier down. Their corners are good force players. [Leonard] Johnson is a good force player, [Darrelle] Revis is a good force player, obviously their safeties are dynamic, big hitters, explosive hitters. Even when teams do break the line of scrimmage and like you saw in the New Orleans game a couple times, they get through the line and they end up gaining six, seven yards because the safeties are right there to nail them. They don’€™t give up a lot of long runs or big plays because they’€™re, again, so well coached and good tacklers in the secondary that those runs, even when you hit one, don’€™t go very far. You hit a couple and they get you in the backfield or they get you on the line of scrimmage and before you know it, you’€™ve had five runs for 12 yards. Maybe you get one seven or eight yarder in there but the other ones you’€™re getting nothing or a yard on. They do a real good job and their linemen are active, not all the time, sometimes they just play technique and play base so you can’€™t always count on them moving but you’€™re going to have to block movement somewhere along the line. They’€™re definitely going to do it and then you have to be ready for it.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Darren Sproles, Dashon Goldson
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