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Sunday NFL Notes: What’s most amazing thing about Darrelle Revis?

03.16.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Cornerback Darrelle Revis has shown a remarkable ability to stay away from penalties the last few years. (AP)

Cornerback Darrelle Revis has shown a remarkable ability to stay away from penalties the last few years. (AP)

1. Taking a closer look at the work of cornerback Darrelle Revis, maybe the most amazing stat that jumps off the page is the fact that he was flagged for just one penalty last season, a defensive pass interference call. According to Pro Football Focus, Revis was only one of two corners in the league last season who played at least 900 snaps and had just one penalty. (Chicago’€™s Tim Jennings was the other.) It’€™s hard to tell how much is execution and how much is the star getting the benefit of a tight call, but Revis has actually pretty skilled at avoiding penalties the last few years. According to nflpenalties.com, Revis didn’€™t take one in 2012 (mainly because he only played two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury.) He had three (one declined) in 2011, and just one (with one declined) in 2010. In all, he’€™s played nearly 100 percent of the snaps in 2013, 2011 and 2010, and has just five penalties to show for it in that time. Contrast that with new cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner comes from Seattle, where the Seahawks constantly pushed the limits, particularly in the secondary. (Seattle was just the third team in NFL history to league the league in penalties and still win the Super Bowl, while cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with 11 penalties against.) Last year, Browner was whistled for five penalties. For some perspective, the recently departed Aqib Talib led the 2013 Patriots in penalties with six and penalty yards against with 73. (As a group, the cornerbacks were the second most penalized positional grouping on the team by yardage with 128 yards, trailing only the offensive line at 166. Overall, the Patriots took the second-fewest penalties in the league.) It remains to be seen if the acquisitions of Revis and Browner will make the New England secondary more physical, but at least when it comes to Browner, the Patriots have picked up a defensive back who has no problems getting physical, regardless of what the officials might think. In addition, they picked up a second one who is as good as anyone in the league at avoiding penalties.

2. It’€™s becoming increasingly evident that it’€™s a lousy time to be a running back. First, it’€™s entirely possible for the second straight year there will be no running backs taken in the first round. Second, the free market for running backs is extraordinarily quiet right now. The best deal to this point has been the four-year, $14 million deal Rashad Jennings has agreed to with the Giants. (The three-year $10.5 million contract Donald Brown signed with the Chargers and the exact same deal that Toby Gerhart agreed to with the Jags are probably tied at No. 2.) Part of it is because it’€™s a relatively weak free agent class to begin with — and with intriguing prospects like Maurice Jones-Drew and Knowshon Moreno out there, it could heat up a bit — but it’€™ll be a slower than usual offseason for the running back market. (As far as how this relates to the Patriots, they should be able to get LeGarrette Blount back at a relative pittance if both sides want to continue the relationship.)

3. One other thing that the first week of free agency has taught us is that it’€™s a great time to be an elite tackle. Through the first 36 hours, the top tackles had signed for more than $180 million in deals, with Branden Albert leading the pack with a five-year, $46 million contract he inked with the Dolphins. The Raiders spent a combined $72.5 million on Rodger Saffold and Austin Howard (that was before Saffold failed his physical and signed with the Rams), while Eugene Monroe returned to the Ravens for five years and $37.5 million. All of this, combined with the fact that it’€™s an excellent draft class for offensive linemen (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin are all likely first-round picks this May) means that it’€™s a good year to be a big guy who can shuffle well. From a local perspective, Malden’€™s Breno Giacomini, fresh off a Super Bowl title with the Seahawks, signed a deal with the Jets to step in at right tackle.

4. Through the first week of free agency, here’€™s a quick look at the personnel moves made by the other three teams in the AFC East.

a) Jets: The biggest addition New York has made to this point has been the acquisition of wide receiver Eric Decker, who agreed to a five-year, $36.25 million deal to become its No. 1 receiver. That’€™s in addition to the pickup of Giacomini, a Malden native who didn’€™t win over any of his old friends in New England when he signed with the Jets. “€œI can tell my friends and family that are all Patriots fans to go kick some rocks,”€ he said with a laugh. “€œIt’€™ll definitely be fun after we win.”€ (The Jets had tried to re-sign last year’€™s starting right tackle Austin Howard, but he accepted an offer from the Raiders.)

b) Bills: Buffalo made the most predictable move of the free agency period to this point, swiping linebacker Brandon Spikes from the Patriots. The deal makes sense for the Bills on a number of levels, as Spikes is close to former Patriots and current Buffalo assistant Pepper Johnson, as well as the fact that he now gives the Bills one of the best run-stoppers in the league. (It’€™s also worth wondering if Vince Wilfork does get his release from New England — given his close relationship with Johnson — could he join Spikes in Buffalo as well?) Buffalo also lost safety Jairius Byrd to a six-year, $54 million deal (with an astonishing $28 million guaranteed) to New Orleans. The Bills added cornerback Corey Graham, linebacker Keith Rivers and offensive lineman Chris Williams. In addition, they re-signed kicker Dan Carpenter.

c) Dolphins: Miami has made a lot of moves to this point, with perhaps the biggest coming with the acquisition of Alberts. Rated as one of the best available tackles in free agency, he should be able to provide a jolt to the woeful Dolphins offensive line. (They also dealt Jonathan Martin to the Niners.) On defense, they lost defensive tackle Paul Soliai to the Falcons (five years, $33 million, $14 million guaranteed), but added veteran Earl Mitchell (four years, $16 million, $9 million guaranteed). They also re-signed defensive tackle Randy Starks (two-year, $12 million) and cornerback Brent Grimes (four-year, $32 million), and added former Lions safety Louis Delmas on a one-year deal. They also lost cornerback Nolan Carroll to Philadelphia.

5. It’€™s not something that fans usually worry about, but the fact that the Patriots lost both Talib and Spikes this week was tough news for reporters who cover the team. Both were consistent entertaining and engaging with the media — Talib more so than Spikes because he spoke with the media on a fairly regular basis. (Spikes’€™ sessions with reporters were rare.) On the occasion of Talib’€™s departure, here are our four favorite quotes from Talib from the 2013 season:

a) “My bad, man. I had to say hi to Gisele.” –€” Apologizing to WEEI’€™s Mut & Merloni on Aug. 14 for being late to an on-air appearance

b) “€œIt’€™s fun. It’€™s the NFL. You watch Tom Brady throw bombs, [and I think,] ‘He’€™s on my team.’ Hey man, that’€™s fun!”€ –€” Speaking with reporters Aug. 7

c) “I don’€™t watch NFL Network or read the newspaper during the season. I’€™m a basketball fan. My TV pretty much stays on NBA TV. I don’€™t really read what nobody says.” –€” Responding to Stevie Johnson‘€™s claim the Patriots didn’€™t have anybody who could stop him, on Sept. 5

d) “œIt’€™s never personal man. It’€™s never personal. I’€™m sure, if I see Steve, it’€™ll be, ‘€˜Hey, what’€™s up? How you doing?’€™ It’€™s never personal. Him and the other guy from St. Louis? That was personal. I mean, he didn’€™t say he was going to punch me in my face after the game. He just told me to go get in the tub. Kind of thoughtful.”€ –€” On his confrontation with Steve Smith during the loss to Carolina on Nov. 20

6. In the wake of the release of veteran safety Steve Gregory, it was interesting to read the comments this week from Duron Harmon, who is likely in line for a boost in playing time after the Patriots’€™ decision to cut ties with Gregory. “Steve Gregory was like a big uncle to me,” Harmon told our friend Dan Duggan over at NJ.com. “He was somebody I really looked up to, somebody that I liked playing under because I got to learn so much from him. That’€™s definitely a sour taste in my mouth because it’€™s somebody that I respected a lot. But those transactions just let me know that it’€™s always a business at the end of the day.”€ Harmon joined teammate and fellow Rutgers product Logan Ryan at Scarlet Knights pro day this week, an affair that included Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio. Caserio apparently led the drills involving the wide receivers, and one guy certainly worth paying attention to was Brandon Coleman. Coleman, who is well aware of the Piscataway-to-Foxboro pipeline, said he felt pretty good about the workout, especially after the grind of the combine last month. “The combine was much more emotional than this,”€ Coleman said. “This was very calm. It’€™s kind of like a practice to me because this is my turf and I’€™ve been out here running around for four years now so I’€™m familiar this whole area. This was nothing compared to the combine as far as anxiety.”€ For more on Coleman, check out our story from the combine on him here. (And in the context of this discussion, it’€™s important to note that Ben McDaniels, the brother of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, is the Rutgers wide receivers coach.)

7. In that same vein, while the NFL is caught up in the free agent whirlwind, it’€™s also important to remember that the pre-draft process continues, with pro days taking place for most of the month of March. Here are a couple of note looming this week, and how they could relate to the Patriots:

a) Monday: Boise State, Florida, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rice, Virginia, Wake Forest
Analysis: It seems like years ago when the New England roster was stocked with Florida players. Now, with the decision to cut ties with Spikes, there are no ex-Gators on the roster.

b) Tuesday: Delaware, Florida State, Montana, Murray State
Analysis: The Patriots figure to be one of several at Florida State’€™s pro day as the defending champs have several intriguing prospects who could end up going in the first round, including defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

c) Wednesday: Baylor, California, Central Florida, San Jose State, Utah, Virginia Tech.
Analysis: New England picked up Shane Vereen out of Cal a few years back, while defensive lineman Sealver Siliga is a Utah product. And while the Patriots won’€™t be in on UCF’s Blake Bortles, it’€™ll be fun to watch him throw.

d) Thursday: Fresno State, Kent State, Missouri, Notre Dame, San Diego State, Stanford
Analysis: Lots of intrigue on Thursday, as Bill Belichick is tight with Irish coach Brian Kelly, and there are a few Golden Domers who might fit in Foxboro, including tight end Troy Niklas and defensive tackle Louis Nix III. And look for teams to try and get a better look at Michael Sam when he’€™s put through his paces at Missouri’€™s pro day.

8. With the Patriots’€™ pickup of Brandon LaFell on Saturday, the Patriots get another receiver with a versatile skill set — he’€™s played both in the slot and on the outside, and done fairly well over the course of his four-year career in both spots. That maturation appeared to peak this season when he 49 receptions for 627 yards and five touchdowns last year (the catches and touchdowns represented career highs). But while the Patriots increased their depth at receiver, it dealt another blow to a Carolina offense that is having a truly miserable offseason. In addition to the loss of LaFell, veteran receiver Ted Ginn signed with the Cardinals, and Smith was cut and bolted for Baltimore. (In what might have been one of the truly great quotes of the offseason, Smith vowed revenge on the Panthers when he returned to Carolina, telling WFNZ Radio “put your goggles on because there’€™s going to be blood and guts everywhere”€ when he comes back to play.) In addition, the Panthers saw veteran left tackle Jordan Gross retire and offensive tackle Anthony Collins opt to sign with the Bucs. Look for Carolina to try and add at wide receiver and offensive line in the draft, but the chain of events over the last month-plus has to be dispiriting for a young quarterback like Cam Newton, who managed to take a giant step forward last season with the Panthers, leading them to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

9. Speaking of Smith, he revealed some details of his talk with Belichick while he was en route to Baltimore to meet with the Ravens. It sounded like Smith was certainly intrigued enough by the idea of coming to New England that he had to think about it. “We had a conversation that indicated that they were very interested in me. And I was also open to going there as well,” he said. “But I really felt like after sitting here that (Baltimore) is the place that I felt would best fit me, and they convinced me that I would fit in here very well.”€ Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net was the first to point this out, but from this viewpoint, the idea of Smith in a New England uniform resurrected memories of Rodney Harrison on more than a few levels. Both are established veterans who are unapologetic when it comes to upsetting the usual routine and saying what needs to be said. They’€™re both fiercely competitive tone-setters who are well regarded in their own locker rooms, but thought of as a pain by their opponents. While Harrison was coaxed to New England with a phone call from Belichick (reportedly just before he was to sign with the Raiders), Belichick wasn’€™t so lucky with Smith. That’€™s too bad, because it would have been fun to see if the feisty Smith could be the latest in a long line of veterans who come to New England on their last deals in hopes of winning a ring.

10. While there has been a lot of movement at the top of the Patriots’€™ free agent class, things have been in a holding pattern for many of the rest of the players. While Julian Edelman, Michael Hoomananwanui and Danny Aiken have returned (and they’€™ve lost Talib and Spikes), it’€™s been quiet for the other seven players, at least as of Saturday evening. Linebacker Dane Fletcher has made a visit to the Bucs, and will visit the Raiders on Sunday. Meanwhile, sources indicate that offensive lineman Will Svitek and Matthew Mulligan remain optimistic about the possibility of returning to Foxboro for 2014, but things are still quiet with their respective situations. Meanwhile, there have been no updates on the status of the rest of the available players, a group that includes Blount, wide receiver Austin Collie, defensive end Andre Carter and center Ryan Wendell.

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