ESPN The Mag: What makes Revis great?

In the upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine, senior writer Shaun Assael considers what makes New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis the best defender in football.

The thorough feature, which you can read now if you're an ESPN Insider, takes a look at Revis' childhood in Aliquippa, Pa., his relationship with Uncle Sean Gilbert, his development at Pitt, what drives him to be great and how playing for Jets head coach Rex Ryan thrust him into prominence.

Assael compares Revis' impact on a game to that of Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis and Deion Sanders.

The Revis effect washes over the Jets. Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense is already the most intricate in the NFL, with linebackers always in motion, shifting between the strong and weak sides, so that offenses never know who's rushing on any given play. When defensive coordinator Mike Pettine says that Revis "helps us heavy up the box," he means that by shutting down the league's best playmakers, Revis frees the other Jets D-backs to crowd the line, which provides more blitzing power. No wonder Gang Green held opponents to just 215 yards a game over their final eight contests before their AFC title game loss to the Colts. "Most teams use their best corner on the second-best receiver and double-team the No. 1," Ryan says. "But with Darrelle we can man-to-man their best. It makes you feel like you're playing with 12 guys."

While it's more difficult to quantify defensive performance levels, the story notes the researchers at Football Outsiders put Revis' 2009 in the same context as what Dan Marino did in 1984 or Jerry Rice did in 1995.

Revis held opposing receivers to 33 percent completions and a league-low 3.5 yards per attempt.