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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Revis wasn’t 100% but made Bucs’ D better

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Published:   |   Updated: December 27, 2013 at 11:45 AM

TAMPA — He is the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League.

His team has four wins.

A waste?

That’s not on Darrelle Revis.

The Bucs have gotten bang for their 16 million bucks — a defense that was a joke last season seemed encouraging at times, far from ghastly. Revis is a reason why.

He has changed a secondary that helped surrender near-record passing yards in 2012. His confidence permeated this defense, which has gone from 29th in total defense to 13th. Last season, the Bucs gave up an extraordinary 69 pass plays of 20 yards or more. Through 15 games, that number is 40, though Drew Brees and the Saints should chime in Sunday.

Pro Bowl selections will be announced Friday night, and Revis will probably not get a fifth selection. But he has made a difference, even while operating at less than 100 percent.

He sees light, not darkness, for this defense.

“A couple of pieces away, it really is,” Revis said. “At this point, we seem to be trying to look a little bit ahead. We have one more (game) left. But to answer your question, we are a couple pieces away, (from) getting some new talent in here and being an awesome defense.

“Yeah, I think the players are fine, it is cool. I think we do need to change some things this offseason as we move forward as players and as coaches and figure things out and try to turn the win-loss column to more wins. There are some adjustments we’ve got to make in the offseason, but we will.”

He wasn’t specific, but use your imagination: schemes, personnel, coaches included — what shouldn’t be on the table, really? Revis expects to have input.

“This is my seventh year,” Revis said. “After every year I’ve talked to coaches and players and tried to figure out a way how we can be better the next year. I’m sure the coaches are going to be very open to that and players are going to be very open to talking and try to figure out what was the problem and what we need to fix moving forward to be a better team next year.”

Revis has looked quite human at times — the double-move touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald, Ted Ginn beating him for a touchdown in Carolina, and where was Revis on that double reverse last Sunday in St. Louis? Is he still all in? But for every moment like that, there were a dozen snaps where teams didn’t even try to mess with the Island, little or no action his way, at least passes.

“I think that’s been the case most of the year,” Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said.

It’s been a trial by fire for rookie corner Johnthan Banks, and second-year safety Mark Barron, who felt the brunt of teams playing away from Revis. But they’ll be better for it in 2014. The 2014 Revis should be better, even if he never catches up to his old self.

“Yeah, it has been a tough year for me individually, coming off of the ACL and just trying to get back into football shape,” Revis said, “and just trying to get back into the football mode — because I was out of it practically the whole year last year.

“Being away from football that long, it does take a toll on you physically and mentally. This year was physical and mental at the same time, just trying to get back and also being traded and being with a new team. And trying to get comfortable with this defensive scheme because it was totally different than what I came from. So, it has been a rough year. But at the same time, things happen like that, and you have to take your bumps and keep on pushing.”

It’s easy to think this whole season was a waste — Revis was supposed to be a finishing touch, and probably would have been if the Bucs offense had not evaporated to the extent that it did. In a sense, bringing in Revis made no sense if the Bucs didn’t believe in Josh Freeman anymore, and apparently Greg Schiano didn’t. He might not get to see the 2014 Revis.

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