Alterraun Verner: Suitable ReplacementApril 12th, 2014
Though Joe has gotten over it, Joe still finds it a negative when a team willing waves goodbye to a future Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. Yes, yes, yes, Joe knows all about Darrelle Revis’ salary and how the Bucs spread the wealth around.
While the thought of losing Revis still irks Joe, the stat nerds over at Pro Football Focus believe the Bucs couldn’t have done much better in who they replaced Revis with, Alterraun Verner.
Verner isn’t Revis in that he isn’t the kind of shutdown corner Revis can be in a scheme that employs a lot of man coverage. However, in a zone-heavy scheme he is a pretty close approximation. With both players playing a mix of man and zone in 2013 Verner actually allowed a lower percentage of targets into his coverage to be caught, allowed half as many touchdowns and broke up more than twice as many passes.
When you look at how often each was in coverage and thrown at, only Revis, Richard Sherman and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were in coverage for more snaps than Verner between each catch surrendered.
Verner excels in the kind of scheme that Lovie Smith will be employing in Tampa Bay and costs a fraction of the money that Revis was due. The difference between the two players within that scheme is negligible. Though he might not hold up if asked to lock down a receiver all day in man coverage, Verner is comfortable, aggressive and very capable.
Before we proclaim that Lovie Smith runs a zone defense because of his background with the Tampa-2, let’s take a step back and consider how new Bucs cornerback D.J. Moore, who played for Lovie in Chicago, broke down Lovie’s defense on SiriusXM NFL Radio last month.
“It is simple. it is real simple,” Moore said. “The Cover-2 thing [under Lovie] is normally [used] when you are in third-and-long. So, if you are in third-and-seven or longer, 90- to 95-percent you will be in Cover-2. Now if it is third-and-six or less, just about 100 percent of the time you will be in man. It just depends on the down and distance.”
So aside from obvious passing downs, and not even all the time in obvious passing downs, the Bucs will be running man-coverage, not zone which people have the habit of thinking.
Will Verner be able to replace Revis? Probably not. What cornerback short of possibly Richard Sherman can? But can he fill the void enough to get the job done? That depends on whether Lovie can ressurect a non-existent pass rush.