DETROIT — The Bucs' trade for CB Darrelle Revis won't result in a playoff appearance. When you pay $16 million a year for a special talent, you would like to think he is the final piece of the puzzle.
But that doesn't mean the decision isn't paying off.
Revis is coming off his three best performances of the season, which coincide with the team's turnaround.
As he continues to gain strength in his left knee and moves further from his ACL surgery, more receivers are becoming castaways on his island.
"I'm actually getting stronger as the year goes on," Revis said.
In those three games, he blanketed the Seahawks' Golden Tate (three catches, 29 yards), Dolphins' Mike Wallace (four for 15) and Falcons' Roddy White (three for 36).
The Lions' Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in pro football, so today's game is when a player such as Revis can be the difference.
In their only other meeting, in 2010, the 5-foot-11 Revis held the 6-5 Johnson to one catch for 13 yards.
"My thought was always just to be physical with them," Revis said. "They're big guys. I feel no receiver wants to get jammed or pressed at the line."
Johnson is a much better player than three years ago, and Revis has had ACL surgery since then. But if the Bucs were ever going to ask Revis for his input and allow him to dictate some of the coverage concepts, this is the time.
"We've put together a plan of how we're going to attempt to cover Calvin," defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "And of course, Darrelle's going to be a very, very huge part of that."
How do you evaluate the Revis trade? The Bucs have gone from last in the NFL in pass defense — and nearly the worst in league history — to 17th. But it's hard to quantify the impact Revis has had on young cornerbacks such as rookie Johnthan Banks.
Meanwhile, Jets rookie Dee Milliner, the ninth overall pick who replaced Revis, has struggled. But the Jets used Tampa Bay's 13th overall pick to select DT Sheldon Richardson, who has been superb and has 21/2 sacks.
TWO-POINT STANCE: DE Adrian Clayborn has been used almost exclusively on the weakside of the defense (opposite the tight end) this season. Another change is he has been given the freedom to rush from a two-point stance, or standing up. It helps Clayborn get a better view of the play and get off blocks.
"We're moving guys around," coach Greg Schiano said. "I won't get into the specifics because then we give away an advantage or what I perceive as an advantage. But it does help him, and it's all related to separation from blockers, vision and all of those things that it gives him. Different pass rushes that he may be running, and he does a good job of mixing it up."
FINAL WORD: The next six weeks will determine much about the future of Schiano, GM Mark Dominik, QB Mike Glennon and the direction of the franchise. But in reality, today at Detroit and next week at Carolina, two playoff contenders, will show if the two-game winning streak is a sign of progress or a mirage.
"It's crazy right? Our world depends on the next six weeks. But dare not let you think about six weeks from now because you'll stumble on right now," Schiano said. "We use the analogy in sports all the time. It's like crossing a brook. Those rocks are slippery. If you look up for one minute to see the other end, you're going to fall on your rear end. So you just watch one stone at a time and step stone to stone, and that's kind of how we've got to do it around here."