Watching Super Bowl 47 makes clear the old adage, offense wins games but defense wins championships. Several times Joe Flacco beat the 49ers’ secondary deep over the middle part of the field, leading to short field scoring opportunities that proved too much for the 49ers strong second-half offensive showing to overcome.
Teams all around the league can look back on their seasons and pinpoint times that a stronger showing from their secondary could have changed not only the course of the game, but of the entire season.
So when an All-Pro caliber cornerback, like Darrelle Revis, becomes available on the trade market it can start a feeding frenzy of teams who desperately need help in their secondary performance.
There are realistically 15 or 20 teams that need real help, but I have narrowed it down to the five most needy.
1. San Francisco 49ers. While the Niners can claim one of the top defenses in the NFL in many categories, their secondary has been consistently lacking since the days of Ronnie Lott, and Merton Hanks, and haven’t had a game changing corner since Deion Sanders helped them win Super Bowl 29 in 1995. While Tarell Brown played well throughout the season, and the playoffs, Carlos Rogers is past his prime at 31, and Chris Culliver’s play leaves a lot to be desired. A top corner like Darrelle Revis could jumpstart a pass defense that ranked number 4 last season, but got burned for over 900 yards in the playoffs.
2. Denver Broncos. There is no doubt that Champ Bailey is one of the best cornerbacks to ever lace up a pair of cleats, but there is also no argument about the fact that he is 34 years old and may have lost a step or two. Although the Broncos secondary had an impressive ranking last season at 7th overall, they broke down under the pressure of a fantastic overtime showing from Joe Flacco in the playoffs. Signing a shut-down corner like Darrelle Revis could be just the thing the Broncos need to get over the hump, and make the run to the Super Bowl everyone predicted for them when they signed Peyton Manning.
3. Kansas City Chiefs. After trading for Alex Smith, the Chiefs hope they have locked down the problems at quarterback, and stalled their offensive woes. Their defense however, is still lacking in several categories not least of which is their secondary. Ranking 12th in the NFL, the Chiefs are in desperate need of an explosive corner that can change the course of the game every time he steps on the field. Darrelle Revis is such a corner, he can provide the coverage the Chiefs need to shut down the opponents number 1 receiver, leave the defense open to concentrate on the run game or slot receivers.
4. Washington Redskins. Rookie of the Year sensation Robert Griffin III led the Washington Redskins on a wild ride that ended in a playoff appearance in 2012. The Redskins won only three games before their bye in week 10, the ‘Skins came back and won seven in a row to clinch a playoff berth in the Wild Card round. Unfortunately, their explosive offense could only cover up the holes in their defense for so long, and they fell to the Seattle Seahawks 24-14. Russell Wilson picked apart the Redskins secondary, and had they had a strong corner like Revis, the outcome may have been completely different.
5. Houston Texans. Going in to the 2012 season, the Houston Texans were heavily favored to make a deep playoff run in the AFC. Undefeated through the first 5 weeks of the season, it seemed the Texans were going to make good on the hype. However, the offense was only just managing to cover up a major weakness in the secondary that was finally exposed to their detriment by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers threw for 338 yards, 6 TD’s and no picks. While any defense is capable of having a bad game, the problem in Houston is obviously deeper when you consider that Chad Henne put up 354 yards and 4 TD’s, and Matt Stafford threw for 441 yards and 2 scores, in weeks 11 and 12. Although Texans quarterback was able to overcome it, the problem actually presented itself early in the season when Peyton Manning torched the Houston secondary for 330 yards and 2 scores. Perhaps if the Texans had a strong corner like Darrelle Revis, they wouldn’t have given up 19 touchdowns in their first 11 games of the season.
There are questions surrounding Revis’ ability to come back and play at the level he played at during his 2010 breakout season, but there is absolutely no doubt that the threat he provides, with his ability to shut down top receivers, would be a welcome addition to any of these teams secondary’s. The real question is who will give up enough to trade their way into a trip to “Revis Island”?