Revis will push for Bucs defense to improve

Cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of five new Bucs starters on defense, intercepts a pass in front of the Dolphins’ Mike Wallace.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of five new Bucs starters on defense, intercepts a pass in front of the Dolphins’ Mike Wallace.
Published Dec. 27, 2013

TAMPA — Trading for cornerback Darrelle Revis was one of the biggest moves the Bucs made this past offseason, securing one of five new starters on a defense that improved dramatically.

But after watching the Bucs go 4-11 heading into Sunday's finale at New Orleans, Revis says more changes are needed and hopes the team allows his input.

"I think we do need to change some things this off-season as we move forward as players and as coaches and figure things out and try to turn the win-loss column to more wins," Revis said Thursday without providing specifics. "There are some adjustments we've got to make in the offseason, and we will. We'll do that and try to turn things around.

"Every year I've talked to coaches and players and tried to figure out a way, how we can be better the next year coming up. I'm sure the coaches will be very open about that and players are going to be very open to talking and figuring out what was the problem and what we need to fix to move forward and be a better team next year."

If the Bucs did anything right in 2013, it was improving a defense that finished 29th overall in the NFL last season, including 32nd against the pass. By adding Revis, safety Dashon Goldson, linebacker Jonathan Casillas and two rookies — cornerback Johnthan Banks and tackle Akeem Spence — the Bucs have vaulted 16 spots to 13th overall, including 15th vs. the pass.

Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said Thursday that he believes returning players became more comfortable their second year in the system while veterans such as Revis and Goldson adapted quickly.

"Hopefully this Sunday we'll be playing our best football defensively," Sheridan said. "I think for the guys who were here a year ago, they're much more comfortable with the scheme and they're playing a lot faster, and I think for the guys we brought in, especially the veteran players, it was easy for them to adapt to whether it was our communication or the types of defenses that they were familiar with … but because they're veterans and they've been around a lot of football, it was a much easier transition.

"We acquired a lot more good players. There's no secret to that. They'd start for most of the teams in the league, if not all 32 teams. It definitely changes the complexion of your defense."

Nowhere were the changes felt more than in the secondary. Despite coming off surgery on a torn left ACL that prevented him from playing in the preseason, Revis helped the Bucs climb from the league's worst secondary to among the NFL leaders in producing turnovers.

Although still not 100 percent, Revis has recorded two interceptions and has consistently shut down the opponent's top receiver while adjusting to a new team and scheme.

"It's been a tough year for me individually, coming off the ACL and just trying to get back into football shape," Revis said. "Being out of football that long, it does take a toll on you physically and mentally … it's totally different from what I came from. It's been a rough year individually."

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However, Revis' presence has been felt. The Bucs rank third in the league in turnovers, forcing 2.07 per game. Their 21 interceptions are the most since 2008 (22).

The biggest difference has been limiting big plays in the passing game. Last year, opposing quarterbacks combined to throw for nearly 5,000 yards (4,951). Through 15 games this season, they have passed for 3,680 yards.

"I think it is (the biggest difference), plus we've probably coached them a lot smarter," Sheridan said. "We haven't played as much press coverage. We have better personnel in the secondary. We've had better pressure, maybe not from a sack count but from pressuring the quarterback."

Revis believes the team is only a few players away from becoming a dominant defense.

"It's a couple pieces away," he said. "It really is. We're a couple of pieces away from getting new talent in here and being a dominant defense. We did well this year."

But not well enough, and that means more changes are likely on the way.

"I feel after every season you've got to evaluate yourself," Revis said. "That's the process. You've got to evaluate yourself as a player and coaches as well. We've all got to do it and figure out a way to be better in 2014."