Playing With MatchesJuly 15th, 2014
Joe is not much into psychobabble, or shrinks for that matter. In some ways Joe gets the hunch it’s witch-doctoring.
How else to describe a profession in which a client/patient must keep coming back again and again and again and maybe it might work and maybe it won’t, but like snook moving in the Gulf, they keep coming back.
Joe was not a happy camper when the Bucs let All World cornerback Darrelle Revis walk. Yes, yes, yes, Joe knows all the reasons why. Still, it was — and is — hard to see the best cornerback of his generation in his prime walk. No compensation. Just gone.
The anti-Revis crowd (yes, inexplicably, there is an anti-Revis crowd) will argue the Bucs would not have Alterraun Verner if they didn’t let Revis walk. Of course, if the Bucs didn’t wave goodbye to Revis, they wouldn’t need Verner, would they?
Over time and untold number of beers, Joe has nearly moved on. Maybe a shrink would call this “self-medicating?” Joe has learned to cope with no Revis. However, if by some chance Verner’s play slips, then what?
In a Bucs season preview, Mike Tanier of the very underrated “Sports on Earth,” which Joe finds much better than “Grantland,” wrote an entertaining yet informative piece on Verner. He believes he is one of the key elements in making Lovie Smith’s makeover of the defense work.
Biggest Risk: Alterraun blows up, causes disturbance in The Force
Replacing Revis with Verner was an understandable move, which does not make it any less risky. Revis was a bad system fit with bad vibes. Verner is cheaper, more eager to be around, and is more of a Lovie Smith-type defender. Still, the Bucs sent a perennial All-Pro packing and replaced him with a guy no one had heard of before last September. This move has backfire potential.
I wrote an extensive scouting report on Verner before the start of free agency. The short version: Verner is great in space, anticipates route combinations well, knows his role in zone coverage and excels in “bail technique,” which involves a deep drop at the snap to take away longer routes and give the cornerback a clear view of the field. On the downside, Verner does not press much, is not much of a run defender and can be beaten by quarterback-receiver combinations with excellent timing.
Verner’s run stopping may be a problem in Lovie’s defense, though great safeties and linebackers will cushion the blow. The zone comprehension, anticipation and willingness to play in space will all serve Verner well. Keep in mind that Lovie’s “Tampa-2” roots do not mean the Bucs will play a Cover-2 zone for 70 snaps per game. It’s more of a philosophy, like “progressive rock” or “Thai cuisine.” Verner fits the philosophy, even if jamming a receiver and trading him to the safety while waiting for a dump-off pass is his best thing. Revis was more of a thick cut of prime rib on the Thai menu, one that cost $50. Verner will be good. But with the Falcons and Saints receiving corps in the division, the Bucs need him to be great.
That’s a helluva point Tanier made. With the receivers Verner will face in this division, he has to play great. Otherwise, do the blocks come tumbling down?
The good news here is that Lovie has really amped up the depth at cornerback. Joe is just going to guess that if any cornerback struggles, then Lovie isn’t going to keep him on the field for long, barring injuries.
Before you starting banging your keyboard in anger, Joe has nothing against Verner at all. Really good dude. But Revis is Revis. So long as the Bucs win, and the beers stay cold, Joe can forget about that move.