Jets get an unsurprising holdout threat from Darrelle Revis; the Sione Pouha prototype

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Darrelle Revis on Hakeem Nicks. (nfl.com)
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A weekly column on what the Jets are up to when they're not playing football.

Will Darrelle Revis hold out?

“I just don’t know,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Revis’s contract, hastily drawn up to end his holdout from 2010 training camp, was frontloaded: He received $32.5 million in his first two years, but is due only $13.5 million in 2012 and 2013. All in all, that works out to less annually that what Nnamdi Asomugha, an older and markedly inferior cornerback to Revis, will make over the course of the five-year, $60 million deal he signed before 2011. Recent monster deals to Mario Williams and Calvin Johnson--two superstar players, though not as superior to their positional peers as Revis--have also left Revis feeling underpaid.

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Normally, when a player holds out for a new contract only to turn around two years later and threaten to hold out again, he wouldn't be in a position to expect much sympathy. The difference here is that Revis’ contract seems to have reflected an acknowledgement from both sides that it was likely untenable as a four-year deal.

The mere $13.5 million the Jets owe Revis over the final two years was basically an escape hatch for the Jets in case Revis’ play slipped from its historic levels. In exchange for this escape hatch, the Jets mildly overpaid Revis for the first two years, though likely by only two or three million per year.

Revis himself acknowledged the nature of the contract when he signed it.

“If I continue to play ball like I usually do, we’ll probably be back at the same position we were this year,” he said in 2010.

He has continued to meet his own high standards, and was easily the best cornerback in the league last year both by the eye test and the Pro Football Focus play-by-play rankings. He held quarterbacks who threw in his direction to an absurd 45.6 rating, compared to the league average of 82.5. Put another way, a cornerback who was as bad as Revis was good would have allowed a rating of 119.4. Last year, Aaron Rodgers set a single-season record for quarterback rating, at 122.5.

Of course, Mike Tannenbaum said very little about this when asked about it several weeks ago.

“Darrelle is under contract,” he said, peremptorily.

But in the N.F.L., in which teams can terminate contracts at any time and players routinely hold out, contracts are hardly ironclad bonds. 

THE JETS LOCKER ROOM HAS BEEN A TOPIC of conversation since the end of last season, when Santonio Holmes melted down on the field in Miami, seemingly providing a neat, non-football explanation for the Jets' disappointing performance. 

Six months later, Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal takes his own look at the Jets locker room--as in, the physical placement of lockers within the practice facility locker room.

Unlike most teams that group players by jersey number or position, the Jets basically place players at random. That results in cases like that of poor Josh Baker, who discovered that Tim Tebow’s locker had been placed next to his.

“Trying to get dressed won’t ever be the same,” said Baker, no doubt envisioning himself on the periphery of a large semicircle surrounding his famous teammate, naked and anonymous.

The Giants arrange their lockers by jersey number, which results in an interesting contrast in energies. After practice, the section devoted to the 20s and 40s--the running backs and defensive backs--is chirpy and excitable, reacting to the end of practice like high-school kids hearing the final school bell. The defensive linemen, most of whom wear numbers in the 90s on the Giants, look like bricklayers who have just knocked off an overtime shift on a hot day. They’ve just been hauling their 300-pound bodies around for the past several hours, and they’re spent.

CONGRATULATIONS TO UNSUNG STAR SIONE POUHA, who was named by Pro Football Focus as the prototype for a 1-Technique defensive tackle.

It was part of an instructive series the site is running on different prototypes for different line positions, which is basically a jumping-off point to describe what each position in each alignment does. (There’s another series for linebackers and one for defensive backs. Not surprisingly, Darrelle Revis was ranked as the best man-coverage corner.)

As the nose tackle in the Jets' hybrid, shape-shifting scheme, Pouha sometimes lines up in the 1-technique, on the inside shoulder of either guard. In a classic 3-4 scheme, which the Jets often employ, Pouha lines up in the 0-technique, or directly over the center. Either way, his job is pretty much the same: Take on a double-team while holding down his small but important plot of land.

When I wrote about Pouha last year, I spoke to Erik Howard, a longtime nose tackle who played for both the Giants and Jets. Howard’s expertise focused mostly on playing the 0-technique, which was his job in the straight-forward, wrinkle-free Giants defenses of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

In the 0-technique, the nose tackle actually moves with the center, thus positioning himself to make tackles on either side of the center, a job that usually entails absorbing a crunching double team from a guard. Because the nose tackle is moving with the center, quickness and anticipation become very important. If the center beats the nose tackle to the spot out of his stance, he needs only to turn his shoulders to wall him off. But if the nose tackle is quick enough to move with the center, he is positioned to make plays on either side of him.

“It looks like we’re just playing sluggo up there, but line play is a lot like ballet, or karate,” Howard told me. “It’s using the other guy’s weight against him, it’s misdirection and footwork. It’s subtle stuff that you can’t see from up in the stands, but if you’re right there on it, you can see.”

Watching Pouha closely on every play is a fascinating exercise and, with HD, it isn’t particularly difficult to see pretty much exactly what's going on. I highly recommend it for fans watching any game in which they have no stake in the outcome. It reaffirms that success or failure on most plays hinges on confrontations between players you probably wouldn’t notice if you’re not watching them specifically.

THE JETS SIGNED A COUPLE OF BORDERLINE N.F.L.-VETERAN offensive linemen last week to veteran minimum deals, hoping that if they throw enough of these guys against the wall in training camp, a couple will stick.

Improving the offensive line is a huge priority: Last year, the Jets plummeted from 8th to 30th in yards per carry. Mark Sanchez was sacked on 6.8 percent of his dropbacks, the twelfth most in the league. That’s much worse than the 25th-most he was sacked in 2010.

The more significant of these moves was Stephon Heyer, formerly of the Redskins and Raiders, who has played both guard and tackle. Heyer has actually started around half the games he’s played in his five years in the league, usually due to injury, which at least suggests that his coaches held him in decently high esteem.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Heyer has only started nine games in the past two years, and whenever he has played, he has ranked among the very worst tackles to see significant snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nevertheless, he stands a pretty good chance of getting playing time because he has starting experience at both tackle and guard. The Jets depth at guard currently consists of Caleb Schlauderaff, a former sixth-rounder with 14 N.F.L. snaps to his name, and Robert Griffin, a rookie sixth-rounder. At tackle, there’s disappointing 2010 second rounder Vladimir Ducasse, and that’s about it.

The other signee was Ray Willis, who started all 16 games for the Seahawks in 2009 and performed decently, but hasn’t played a snap since then after suffering an injury in the summer of 2010.

Neither of these guys changes the fact that the right-tackle job is still Wayne Hunter’s to lose. Hunter was terrible last year, ranking fifth-to-worst of the 60 starting tackles in the Pro Football Focus rankings. But he has received a ringing endorsement from new offensive line coach Dave DeGugliemo, who seems to have taken on Hunter as “his guy,” saying:

“Until they tell me otherwise, until they ship him out of this building or until they shoot me dead in my office, that son of a gun [Hunter] is going to be the starting right tackle and he’s going to play well.”

Of course, one way to ensure that Hunter will start is by signing guys like Heyer and Willis as his competition.

OVER/UNDER FOR JETS WINS, ACCORDING to Vegas? 8.5.

The Patriots were tied with the Packers for first in the league at 12. The Dolphins were at 7.5, and the Bills were at 7.

IF BART SCOTT, OF ALL PEOPLE, DOESN'T WANT his kids playing football, do you really want your kids playing?

We’re going to be hearing more and more of this: In the past few weeks, Kurt Warner and Osi Umenyiora have basically said the same thing.

Here’s a caveat, though: It’s likely that the offspring of Scott, Warner, and Umenyiora will be much better at football and therefore much more likely to play at least in college than yours will. This, of course, increases the risk that football will take a long-term toll on them. It’s a different calculation with these guys than genetically normal people.