FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- You don't trade a player the caliber of Darrelle Revis and not feel the impact. Through four games, the New York Jets experienced only a dull ache, but that changes Monday night. The Revis withdrawal turns into a sharp pain.
The Atlanta Falcons (1-3) aren't having the kind of the season they expected, but they still have Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones and Roddy White and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. In Rex Ryan's words, "Wow, what a collection" of talent.
In the past, Ryan relished this type of matchup because he had the luxury of rolling out two premier cornerbacks, Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The Jets' defense was built around the man-to-man coverage skills of the two players, affording Ryan the freedom to scheme up ways to neutralize other threats. More often than not, it worked.
The post-Revis Jets have acquitted themselves quite nicely -- they're No. 2 in total defense -- but they knew there would be times when they'd feel Revis' absence. This is one of those times. Jones and Gonzalez are among the best at their respective positions, and the Jets' secondary ... well, it ain't what it used to be.
Cromartie's play has slipped, possibly because of a nagging hip injury, and the other cornerback position has turned into a revolving door. First-round pick Dee Milliner probably will miss his second straight game with a cranky hamstring -- he was struggling before the injury -- and his replacements, Kyle (Flags) Wilson and Darrin Walls, haven't distinguished themselves.
Last Sunday, the Tennessee Titans turned misplays by Walls and Cromartie into touchdowns, and you can bet the Falcons will go to school on that.
"They're seeing the tape," Ryan said, "and they're going to take shot after shot after shot, because that's what they do."
Too bad they couldn't borrow Revis for this game. And maybe the game next month against the New Orleans Saints. He probably wouldn't mind; he's probably already tiring of life with the winless and dysfunctional Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the new New York Jets.
The Jets already have allowed seven touchdown passes, including two on blown coverages. In 2009, the heyday of Revis and Ryan's defense, they surrendered a total of only 11.
Cromartie, coming off a career year, has allowed two touchdowns and a 105.6 passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus. In Tennessee, he was embarrassed on a 77-yard touchdown reception by Nate Washington, colliding with the back judge at the time of the catch. Cromartie misplayed the football, according to Ryan, who said: "Even the great ones have that happen to them."
Cromartie isn't a great one; he's a very good corner when he's on his game. On Monday night, he'll face a great receiver in Jones, who has three straight 100-yard receiving games. If he's in man-to-man coverage, Cromartie will have trouble keeping up with the Jones, who can wreck a game.
"He's been doubled almost the whole year and I think he still leads the league in receiving yards," said Ryan, who was correct with his factoid -- 481 yards, to be exact. "That might be a problem."
The usually dangerous White has been slowed by an ankle injury, but the Falcons are getting a terrific season out of Gonzalez, the most prolific tight end in history. If you're Ryan, how do you cover Gonzalez? With second-year safety Antonio Allen? Gimme a break.
When he had the Cromartie-Revis tandem, Ryan sometimes used another corner to cover the top receiving tight ends. He doesn't have that kind of flexibility anymore because he's down a couple of thoroughbreds in the secondary, meaning Revis and safety LaRon Landry, who bolted in free agency.
Let's be clear: The Jets made the right move by trading Revis for a first-round draft pick, which they turned into promising defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. It would've been insanity to meet Revis' asking price, $16 million a year, especially for a rebuilding team. Someday, everyone will see the benefit of the trade.
Someday won't be Monday night.