Darrelle Revis may have a title to reclaim in 2013.
To some, he's still the best cornerback in the NFL despite missing 13 games a season ago with a torn ACL.
But to others, Revis' time away from football allowed guys like Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears to enter the top-cornerback discussion and in some circles—gulp—surpass Revis as the game's most impactful and disruptive secondary member.
The three-time All-Pro has relocated Revis Island to the sultry air of Tampa, Fla., where the Buccaneers will ask him to lock down a multitude of talented wideouts in the pass-infatuated NFC South.
Now 28, entering his seventh professional campaign, Revis and his surgically repaired knee will certainly be tested on a weekly basis.
What can Greg Schiano's club expect from a healthy Revis this season?
Let's start with what the numbers suggest.
Per ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), this is how effective Revis has been on a per-game basis since 2010:
(Remember, he missed three games and labored through a hamstring injury most of the 2010 season.)
Here's what those per-game averages look like when extrapolated to a full, 16-game season:
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Even when docking Revis slightly for his age and the 2012 injury, a 45-tackle, two-interception campaign with 10-to-13 passes defended would certainly not make him a liability as a No. 1 corner, that's for sure.
No, it wouldn't be the dominant Revis to which we're accustomed. Basically, in what should be a worst-case scenario based on his past, Tampa Bay's top corner would still be pretty darn good.
Injuries—or the recurrence of them—are impossible to predict, but the recent history of cornerbacks returning from ACL tears is, well, rather discouraging.
Check the third subheader in this February article on Revis.
In summation, cornerbacks haven't been able to return to pre-injury form, and many of them have gotten injured after their knee ligament tear. It's impossible to know whether some of the injuries were caused by the ACL ailment or residual effects from that injury, but the string of unfortunate events cornerbacks coming off ACL surgery have recently endured is undoubtedly worth noting.
However, there's something to be said about Revis' world-class athleticism. While there's no concrete formula stating that better players are more likely to return to form than mediocre players, Revis' pre-injury elite physical skill set and high-caliber production mustn't be ignored.
But, for the sake of this article, we're assuming Revis will be healthy, and a healthy Revis should be among the game's best.
To go a step further, let's look at Tampa Bay's schedule, and the receivers he'll likely cover.
- Week 1 - New York Jets: Santonio Holmes (if hurt, Stephen Hill)
- Week 2 - New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston
- Week 3 - New England Patriots: Unknown (Danny Amendola?)
- Week 4 - Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
- Week 6 - Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin
- Week 7 - Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones or Roddy White
- Week 8 - Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith
- Week 9 - Seattle Seahawks: Sidney Rice
- Week 10 - Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace
- Week 11 - Atlanta Falcons: (see: Week 7)
- Week 12 - Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson
- Week 13 - Carolina Panthers (see: Week 8)
- Week 14 - Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson
- Week 15 - San Francisco 49ers: Anquan Boldin (or Michael Crabtree)
- Week 16 - St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin?
- Week 17 - New Orleans Saints: (see: Week 2)
While the NFL is littered with ultra-skilled receivers who are prominently featured now more than ever, it's safe to say that Revis will have his hands full almost every week in 2013.
Could that gauntlet ultimately hurt Revis' production?
But before he went down for the season against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 last year, it's not as if he was thrashed by the game's top wideouts. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
According to this January 2010 article by ESPN.com's Tim Graham, Revis has fared well against three of the NFC South's best receivers (has played each once):
Those are rather encouraging, stingy numbers.
Therefore, it wouldn't be crazy to assume he could struggle to be as dominant as he was with the New York Jets.
Then again, after a multi-year stretch of unprecedented prolific play during which he shut down the premier wideouts in the NFL, it would be unfair to project a disappointing season for No. 24.
If healthy, expect Revis to be among the top cornerbacks in the league, and actually, don't be surprised if at year's end he's considered the best once again.