In case you didn't see Darrelle Revis'(notes) interview with Deion Sanders on the NFL Network's Sunday GameDay Morning (we hope to have the video later today), Revis proved to be an interesting subject. After talking technique and his credentials for the Defensive Player of the Year award that went to Charles Woodson(notes), he did a quick word association with Prime Time on some of the NFL's best receivers. Steve Smith and Chad Ochocinco(notes) were termed "competitors", Randy Moss(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes) were labeled "slouches" (yow!), and Andre Johnson(notes) was deemed a "beast".
Revis' take on the Texans' big receiver, who stands 6-3, 230 and plays as aggressively as any tight end when a defender is trying to take him down. In Houston's season opener against the Jets, Johnson caught four passes for a season-low 35 yards with Revis covering him -- he was the first man stranded on Revis Island this season. But he's the closest in stature to the guy Revis will be trying to shut down this afternoon -- Vincent Jackson(notes) of the San Diego Chargers.
At 6-5, 230, and with a more prominent vertical game than Johnson, Jackson could present more matchup issues than any receiver Revis has faced this year. Revis has impeccable technique and demon speed, but he's giving up six inches in height to Jackson, and the Chargers might try different things with Jackson to get him in better situations. Instead of heading downfield with Revis on inside position (a nightmare scenario for any wideout), Norv Turner may attempt to use Jackson's route-running abilities to get him in space where Philip Rivers(notes) can throw jump balls to him.
Problem is, even if Jackson is able to get things going, the Jets' defense is about more than jst Revis. Football Outsiders' team defense metricshave the Jets ranked first against #1 receivers (go figure), but also sixth against #2 receivers, second against other receivers, fourth against tight ends, and second against running backs. They have a good secondary, but it's not the only reason they rank so high against every kind of receiver. The real reason? Pressure. The Jets bring all sorts of pressure from different angles and formations, and it makes things very difficult for your average NFL quarterback.
Of course, Rivers is far better than average. Further FO numbers tell us that he's first in the NFL against three and four rushers with a yards per attempt average of 8.6, third against five rushers with a YPA of 8.0, and 11th against six or more at 6.9 YPA. He puts up 10.8 YPA against zone blitzes (ranking third), and nobody in the league is better against all other pass rushers besides the zone blitz. In other words, Rivers isn't really negatively affected by pressure, which makes the Jets' task very difficult. On offense, New York runs the ball very well (something the Chargers don't do anymore), but they're not ready for a shootout. They have a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez(notes) who is improving, but he's far from Rivers' class just yet. Unless Rex Ryan dials up new ways to keep Rivers in check, the Jets will simply watch their season slip away.