Darrelle Revis makes the tackle against Nebraska
On Thursday Eric Mangini was critical of his team's morning practice. Well, he was more peppy today. Without question or prompt, the Jets head coach opened his news conference extolling the progress of Darrelle Revis.
"Darrelle really did have a nice season last year for such a young guy," Mangini said of the cornerback whom the Jets drafted 14th overall in 2007. "And he's responded in ways, as a coach, you're always excited to see."
Mangini doesn't often gush, but he made an exception to highlight what, for the most part, has been an exceptional camp performance for Revis.
Though Revis told reporters a day before training camp opened that he was unsure if he would start, he has been a constant with the first-team defense and is most often assigned the No. 1 receiver. He hasn't been thrown against much in practice — the Jets hope the rest of the league will follow suit — but when he's been tested, he has made plays.
"It just says the hard work is paying off," Revis said of his coach's praise. "This past off-season, I worked very hard and you can see it paying off. Coach has seen it."
But what Revis saw in the off-season when analyzing video of himself was a lot of room for improvement. The 91 tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups earned him a selection to All-Rookie teams, but it's the plays he didn't make that stood out on tape and lingered with him.
"I was running around out there with my head cut off," said Revis, saying he didn't fully digest the playbook in his rookie season. "The coaches did a great job of just giving me basic things to do. They told me that it was OK and to be patient."
Revis was a late signing and because of that he missed training camp last year and had to take an in-season crash course, learning as he went along. The jump from high school to college was a breeze, he said, but from the University of Pittsburgh to the NFL, it's more like a pole vault.
"You get a playbook this big," he said, spreading his arms about two feet apart, "and you have to know everything in it."
He squared off against some of the league's elite wide receivers, including Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Lee Evans, Braylon Edwards and Chad Johnson (whom Revis considers his toughest matchup to this point). It was a trial by fire for him and, often, it was trial and error.
"But it was good to get that experience as a rookie," he said. "I feel like a fifth-year veteran now."
Having studied himself and the playbook, he now has a better understanding of both. Revis swore that he is now familiar and comfortable with all the defensive schemes, even calling himself "a student of the game."
The coach concurs.
"I forget which day it was, but it was an interception he had," Mangini recalled. "The day before he had been beaten on that. ... He had to learn from the day before that it was going to be some type of X isolation route, so that's what he processed. That's why he got the jump that he got on it. And that to me is real progress."
Despite this being just his second season, Revis has taken on a leadership role, which is something that Mangini and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson have encouraged. He isn't so much the rah-rah type, but he certainly leads by example.
"He's always challenging guys," Mangini said. "He wants to go against the toughest guy all the time, the toughest route all the time, putting himself in those hard situations so that when he faces them in a game, they're not as hard."
And Revis has already become well-versed in athlete-speak. He said that he doesn't compare himself to other defensive backs, nor does he aspire to be mentioned among the greats. But he looks up to Champ Bailey, watches DeAngelo Hall and Asante Samuel, and he wears No. 24 in honor of Ty Law. He might be reluctant to say it, but he's shooting for that plateau or higher.
His aim should be better this season, what with his head being reattached. Assuming he gets a chance to play, of course. "I still don't know yet," Revis joked. "I'll have to have a one-on-one with [Mangini] and find out."