Jets have talent to survive sans Revis while business is handled

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Darrelle Revis' ongoing holdout has squelched some of the optimism around the New York Jets, but fans shouldn't fret about the possibility of a season without the team's top defender.

Although the absence of the league's best cover man would weaken a defense that suffocates opponents with an aggressive, high-pressure scheme, Rex Ryan's troops are well equipped to handle a prolonged dispute.

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Of course, that sentiment isn't meant to suggest that Revis' superior abilities won't be missed. He emerged as the quintessential lockdown corner last season when he blanketed the likes of Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Vincent Jackson and Steve Smith in single coverage. He was so effective snuffing out elite receivers that the Jets routinely matched him up with an opponent's top receiver and used some form of double coverage to neutralize the complementary wideout.

The suffocating coverage complimented pressure produced by the Jets' exotic blitzes, which helped the defense lead the league in several categories, including pass defense with an average of only 153.7 yards allowed per game.

With the defense gaining recognition throughout the league, Revis became the face of the unit. In fact, many thought he deserved Defensive Player of the Year honors over Charles Woodson after his sensational season.

Given the host of accolades that followed, including his second Pro Bowl nod, Revis understandably wants to see his compensation reflect his status as the game's top corner. Nnamdi Asomugha currently averages $15.1 million annually, and Revis has set his sights on surpassing that deal. However, the two sides have seemingly reached an impasse, and Revis' absence has put the secondary in the spotlight.

Fortunately for the Jets, they have the personnel in place to replace Revis in the event of an extended holdout. The team acquired Antonio Cromartie in an offseason trade with the San Diego Chargers. The former Pro Bowler has 15 career interceptions and gives Ryan an option capable of producing big plays. Although Cromartie's production has slipped in the two seasons since picking off 10 passes, he has the tools to re-emerge as an elite player.

For that to happen Cromartie must overcome the mental lapses that plagued him in San Diego. And in this system that will ask him to play an extensive amount of press coverage, the chances are good. Given his size (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) and athleticism, he could be a challenge to the elite receivers in the AFC East.

The Jets drafted Kyle Wilson to upgrade their nickel position, but the rookie could be forced into a bigger role without Revis. Although inexperience is a concern, the Jets will lean their free safety to Wilson's side to provide protection over the top while, at the same time, allowing him to aggressively jump underneath routes.

Dwight Lowery will move into the slot to reprise his role as the nickel back, and his experience (15 starts in two seasons) will allow the team to keep using exotic pressures to harass quarterbacks.

While the Jets' combination of cover men would no longer rate as the league's top unit without Revis, Ryan has proven that he can get stellar performances from a hodgepodge group. Last season, the top-ranked defense lost Kris Jenkins to injury after six games. He was playing at a Pro Bowl level at the time he went down, but the Jets continued to control the line of scrimmage.

The experience showed that the defense is capable of overcoming the loss of key personnel, and that resiliency has emboldened Revis' teammates and coaches.

Ryan displayed some of that confidence when he suggested that the Jets will be "the best defense in the league" with or without Revis in the fold.

The bodacious coach has pumped swagger into his guys while molding them into a title contender. I wouldn't bet against the defense having success in Revis' absence.

INJURIES MOUNT IN BALTIMORE

The Ravens entered the season with title aspirations, but the injury-ravaged secondary might not be up to the challenge. The team is facing the possibility of starting a pair of journeymen -- Chris Carr and Travis Fisher -- after losing Domonique Foxworth to a season-ending knee injury in practice last week.

With their top two remaining corners -- Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb -- still on the mend following their own respective knee injuries, and perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed still recovering from offseason hip surgery, the Ravens are suddenly vulnerable in the back end.

While Tom Zbikowski admirably filled in for Reed last season (two interceptions in four starts) and appears to be a capable short-term replacement, the same can't be said for the revolving door at corner. The Ravens struggled mightily last year when the injury bug hit at the position, and the current lack of depth ensures that those woes will remain. While the Ravens made a trade with the Washington Redskins for Doug Dutch, look for the team to add a veteran free agent (Walt Harris, Fred Smoot or Shawn Springs) as a stopgap measure, but their best bet is to hope for a speedy recovery from Washington and Webb.

PATS LOOKING FOR A RUSH

The Patriots' pass rush is in question with the potential retirement of Derrick Burgess. The veteran failed to report to training camp as he debates his future. His absence robs the team of one of its biggest threats off the edge.

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Burgess, a two-time Pro Bowler with 52 career sacks, accounted for five of the Patriots' 31 sacks last season, and was penciled in as a starter at one of the outside linebacker spots.

With Burgess possibly out of the picture, Tully Banta-Cain must continue to anchor the rush. He had 10 sacks a season ago while emerging as the leader of the unit. Though he failed to deliver in the past, his burst and relentless motor give him a chance to replicate his success.

However, the team will need to discover a complementary rusher to pair with Banta-Cain. Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, Pierre Woods, and Marques Murrell are candidates for the job, but the group has collectively tallied only two sacks.

Given the revamped passing attacks in the AFC East, the Patriots need to find a solid solution to have a chance at retaining their division crown.

SECONDARY SWITCH IN CHICAGO

The Bears have quietly shifted Charles Tillman from his customary left cornerback position to the right side. The move should be viewed as a demotion since left corner is viewed as the marquee spot in the secondary (most offenses are right-handed, so the majority of the throws in the passing game are directed on the defense's left), and Tillman had made 91 of his 94 career starts on that side.

Although Tillman has 22 career interceptions in seven seasons, his cover skills have dipped over time and he's no longer the premier cover man on the roster.

Zack Bowman has moved to the left side. He opened eyes after picking off six passes in his first season as a starter. The switch shows that the Bears think Bowman's on the verge of being one of the league's elite corners.

While coach Lovie Smith has downplayed the flip-flopping of his corners, the move is undoubtedly designed to generate more turnovers in the secondary. With an upgraded pass rush poised to wreak havoc, the switch could yield big results for all involved.

RAIDERS TAKE IT SLOW

For the second year in a row, Raiders coach Tom Cable has opened up training camp by instituting a four-day series of walk-through practices.

While most teams jump right into high-intensity, full-contact sessions, Cable is eschewed conventional wisdom by slowing down the practice pace to maintain a teaching tempo that allows players to focus on fundamentals without the distraction of contact or the ball.

Though this kind of practice would be common on the high school or collegiate level, Cable has taken to the idea in an attempt to get rid of the losing culture that has engulfed the franchise.

The Raiders have lost 11 or more games in each of the past seven years, and their lack of discipline and focus has been the primary catalyst.

In speaking with Cable last season, he talked about changing the atmosphere by stressing the importance of accountability and attention to detail. He talked about those traits being the pillars of success, and his decision to slow the tempo down is another way to drive home his point.

Although it remains to be seen whether Cable will be able to end the run of futility in Oakland, his new-school approach will serve as the foundation of the team's return to respectability.

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