In his day, it was said that Deion Sanders would take away half his opponents' passing field, so daunting was the task of completing a pass on his side.
In today's NFL, the same is being said of New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis — that he is capable of denying half the field with his mere presence.
The Ravens will see for themselves Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium when the teams meet in a primetime heavyweight bout that will help sort out the hierarchy in the AFC this season.
Is Revis the best corner in the NFL, better even than Philadelphia's Nnamdi Asomugha, who picked up $25 million in guarantees last summer to sign with the Eagles?
Ravens cornerback Chris Carr, who is close friends with Asomugha from their time together in Oakland, thinks the two players are "pretty even." But Carr gives Revis a distinct edge with his near-perfect technique in an in-your-face style of coverage.
"I think [Revis] has the best press technique in the league," Carr said this week. "From a fundamental standpoint, if you really watch him in press, he really doesn't make many mistakes.
"If you're the best in the league at that, you're probably going to be the best cover, man-to-man guy in the NFL. He's very patient."
What that does is force receivers out of their routes at the line of scrimmage, disrupt the timing of the passing game and create a discomfort zone for the quarterback.
In the five years since Revis, 26, was a first-round pick of the Jets, he has cultivated a reputation for excellence. He's been selected to the Pro Bowl the past three years and was named All-Pro the last two.
Indeed, the Revis Island persona apparently can intimidate quarterbacks enough that they refuse to throw to his side. So, can Revis actually eliminate half the field from his opponent?
"He can definitely take one man away," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "I don't know if it is one side of the field. They do a great job [with him]. They roll the coverage away from him, lock him up on the backside.
"The thing that impresses me about him is he's consistent. He is a technician. He is not just an athlete out there playing, shutting people down. He uses good technique, he knows how to play square, he is a good tackler. You look at his body type — he is a great looking guy from a football perspective. He is not a slightly built corner."
At 5 feet 11 and 198 pounds, Revis is one of the league's most physical corners. Each week, he draws the opponent's top receiver. The results are consistent, if not predictable.
"If you just watch their film, and just go back to last year, he basically takes away the opponent's best receiver every week," Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said.
Pagano said the Jets will roll the post safety toward the other side to ensure coverage over there, as opposed to shading toward Revis' side.
On Sunday, Ravens wideouts Anquan Boldin and rookie Torrey Smith will get the chance to be Revis-busters.
Boldin is bigger (6-1, 223) and just as physical. He missed a chance to play Revis in last season's opener when Revis was hurt. Smith (6-0, 205) is big and fast.
Boldin doesn't buy into the Revis' hype, and especially not into the thought of him taking half the field away.
"It's not so much about Revis," Boldin said. "You just have to look at the defense. You have to look at what Rex [Ryan, Jets coach] does. A lot of times, players get so locked in to other players across from them and they don't realize what defenses are trying to do to them. The best thing you can do is try to realize what they're trying to take away from us offensively."
As for Revis' physicality, Boldin said: "I feel like I match up with anybody in the league physically. That's not something I'm worried about."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged the Jets have a pretty good corner on the other side in Antonio Cromartie, as well as the matchup problems Revis presents.
"So they've got two guys out there on the outside that play pretty well," Flacco said. "With Revis over there, it allows them to roll their coverage certain ways and leave him on an island. They trust that he's going to be able to man up whoever they put out there on him. So we'll do something to try to switch that up and get one-on-one matchups the way we like them. But those guys are very good at what they do and we'll have to account for that."
Carr cautioned against the intimidation factor and against going away from Revis just because he's Revis.
"It's definitely not like an impossible task for people to get open against him, or a daunting task," Carr said. "Because, as much as I say he has the best press technique and all that stuff, people do make mistakes every now and then."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun