Posts Tagged ‘Antonio Cromartie’

Secondary issues: Geno not the only problem

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Geno Smith might be the poster boy for the Jets’ struggles this season – the guy that gets the headlines and elicits the most talk radio debate – but he’s not the only one to blame.

No, the Jets have a secondary problem, namely, problems with their secondary.

Geno Smith will get most of the coverage this week but he's not the only one to blame. The Jets secondary has struggled mightily this season and it's becoming an issue.

“The big play is the Achilles’ heel of our defense,” said head coach Rex Ryan before playing the Baltimore Ravens, a game in which the Jets secondary gave up two pass plays over 60 yards.

“That’s it, that is what’s preventing us from being an elite defense right now,” he added. “Obviously, we’re playing the run better than anybody in the league and it’s not close.”

And Ryan is right. In almost every context, the Jets have the league’s best run defense. They’re holding opponents to 2.85 yards per rush, which is tops in the league by almost a full yard, and Football Outsiders ranks them first in rush defense by nearly 10 percent.

But once the ball is in the air, particularly deep down field, the Jets struggle mightily and it’s becoming too hard to ignore.

From 2009-2011, Football Outsiders had the Jets pass defense ranked in the top four, holding the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in ‘09 and ‘11, respectively. Even without All-Pro Darrelle Revis for much of 2012, they were ranked in the top 10.

But this season, Football Outsiders have the Jets ranked 16th in pass defense, giving up 11.33 yards per pass, which is well below the league average. They struggle against opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver, allowing 84.9 yards per game, and are nearly last in the league (30th) against opponent’s No. 2 wide receivers.

If only the Jets had a shutdown corner, you know, the type of player who could take away the opponent’s No. 1 weapon. Maybe someone with his own island?

Not to say that the loss of Revis is to blame for the secondary’s problems this year or that the Jets wouldn’t do that deal a thousand times over if it meant getting Sheldon Richardson in return. But it’s clear that Ryan’s once dominant secondary is in sharp decline.

Looking for some type of solution, Ryan had the secondary running “Buddy Ryan” pass defense drills all last week to help them with the deep ball. It didn’t work.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith still beat former All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie with 60-yard pass and both rookie Dee Milliner and the newly acquired Ed Reed saw Joe Flacco drop a 66-yard dime right in between their outstretched arms.

Cromartie is clearly not himself, either because of a nagging hip injury or natural decline. Reed was brought in merely as a stopgap and Milliner has struggled so publically that he’s been benched for Darrin Walls on more than one occasion.

But both Ryan and his players believe a turnaround is coming.

“For us, it comes off as, they see us as this and we know we’re something different,” said Walls. “We take it as a challenge. We know we’ve given up the deep ball in the past couple games and that’s one thing we want to stop. We want to burn that fire out and give them something else to talk about. Now it’s the deep ball, so we have to take care of that.”

And how can they be so confident?

“Because I’ve seen it and done it,” said Ryan.

Jets can’t bounce back in ugly loss to Ravens

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD – A new streak ended and an old one endured in Baltimore. And that means bad news for the New York Jets.

After falling to the Baltimore Ravens, 19-3, on Sunday, the Jets failed to follow a loss with a win for the first time all season and dropped to 3-17 when facing a reigning Super Bowl champion.

Geno Smith had an opportunity to silence a few doubters against the Ravens. Instead, he added more fuel to the fire.

The Jets, now 5-6 on the season, were downright awful on offense, managing only 220 total yards – including a paltry three yards in the second quarter – going 1-12 on third down with three turnovers.

Shades of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Tony Sparano.

Rookie Geno Smith didn’t do himself any favors, completing just nine passes for 127 yards with two interceptions and a 22.3 percent passer rating. Smith now leads the league with 18 interceptions.

For the record, wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who threw two passes out of the wildcat, ended the day with a higher passer rating – 70.8 – than Smith, who until deep into the second quarter was the team’s leading receiver.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg went with a heavy dose of the wildcat throughout the game, opting for Cribbs and running back Bilal Powell instead of Smith, an unspoken indictment on his rookie quarterback.

“[The problems] have to be corrected and it starts with me,” said Smith. “I’ll take it upon myself to be the first one to say that I didn’t play well.”

Even though the buzzards were circling around Smith all game – and will be all week – head coach Rex Ryan stayed with him all game and remained committed to him after it.

“It’s on all of us,” said Ryan after to falling to 0-3 against his former team. “We have to get better. We have to get better in a hurry and we know that.”

Ryan was pressed after the game about the future of his young quarterback but remained adamant that the loss wasn’t all on Geno.

And it wasn’t.

The Jets receivers dropped a number of passes in key situations, which Ryan said “jumped out” to him and the pass protection was porous, allowing three sacks and four quarterback hits.

“I’m not going to talk about one individual, starter or backup,” said Ryan. “I want to watch the tape first.”

The Jets secondary also struggled, allowing two pass plays of at least 60 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown, from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones, a play that put the game out of reach with five seconds left in the third quarter.

All week, Ryan called for improvement in the secondary, running “Buddy Ryan drills” in practice to prevent big plays, which he called “the Achilles’ heel” of the defense.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith also burnt cornerback Antonio Cromartie for a 60-yard completion in second quarter, adding on to the long list of blunders for the All-Pro corner this season.

Adding insult to injury, Cromartie left the game late in the fourth with a hip injury.

The run defense was again superb for the Jets, bottling Ray Rice up for 30-yards on 16 carries, and holding the Ravens to 67 total yards on the ground, a 2.2 yards per carry average.

Nick Folk was the only other bright spot for the Jets, nailing his only field goal attempt, a 27-yarder in the first quarter. He is now 23-for-24 this season.

Moving forward, the Jets will prepare for next week’s game against the division rival the Miami Dolphins while facing two awful realities: they’re now on the outside of the AFC playoff picture looking in, and they have sure-fire quarterback controversy on their hands.

When asked if he thinks he’s the quarterback to lead the Jets to the playoffs, Geno Smith responded: “I know I am,” adding, “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Jets fans just hope that light isn’t an oncoming train.

Preview: Jets (4-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-1)

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – The Jets have keep a pretty consistent win-loss, win-loss pattern going this season, so if it holds, they should pull off a thrilling victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

But as against the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, teams the Jets have upset so far this season, conventional wisdom isn’t in their favor.

The forecast will be grim for the Jets, whose struggling secondary must face off against the Saints and the third best passing offense in the league, a squad led by Drew Brees and a variety of weapons, including All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, a position the Jets have struggled to defend this season.

The Saints’ defense is also vastly improved under Rex Ryan’s brother, Rob Ryan, a unit that is ranked seventh in the league in total defense, up from 32nd a year ago. “I think the two guys, in my opinion, that are doing the best job in this league are Bob Sutton in Kansas City and then my brother in New Orleans. I don’t even think it’s close,” said Rex on Monday.

Add it all up and the Saints are 6-1 since the return of head coach Sean Payton from his suspension, making the Jets 6.5 point home underdogs this weekend.

The again, the Saints don’t really have an impressive lineup of victories (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo) and their only loss came against the Patriots who, as we know, just lost to the Jets.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance …

After a crushing loss to the Bengals, it's only natural that the Jets would pull out a win against the Saints. But will they?

When: Sunday, November 3, 2013, 1:00 p.m. EST (TV-FOX Radio-ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report (as of Thursday):

Jets:

Did not practice: G Willie Colon (calf), TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion), RB Alex Green (hamstring), WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring)

Limited: WR Stephen Hill (foot), C Nick Mangold (ribs), WR David Nelson (quadricep)

Saints:

Did not practice: G Jahri Evans (hip), S Malcolm Jenkins (knee)

Limited: WR Marques Colston (knee), TE Jimmy Graham (foot), S Roman Harper (knee), DE Tom Johnson (hip), DE Cameron Jordan (ankle), S Kenny Vaccaro (concussion, back), DT Tyrunn Walker (knee)

Watch to watch for:

Secondary education: Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner made all the headlines this week after his poor performance and subsequent benching against the Bengals. Quarterback Andy Dalton completed four of five passes with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing in Milliner’s direction, but Rex stressed patience when critiquing the team’s ninth overall pick. “I will say this, by the time the season’s over, I think he will be the best rookie corner and playing better than any rookie corner in this year’s draft. I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Ryan said. It’s far too early to declare Milliner a bust and even after two benchings this season the Jets secondary has bigger problems than just Milliner. By his own admission, All-Pro Antonio Cromartie is having a down year after a Pro-Bowl campaign a year ago and with Brees rolling into town the secondary won’t be getting a break. If the Bengals can throw for 323 yards and five touchdowns, imagine what the Saints will do if the Jets don’t find a quick fix.

Resurrecting the pass rush: Putting pressure on the quarterback hasn’t been an issue for the Jets this season, until last week that is. The Jets managed only one sack and one quarterback hit against the Bengals, allowing Dalton to have a career day. If the Jets are to have any success against the Saints, they must put pressure on Brees. The also must prove that last week was nothing more than a fluke. The Jets defense is at their best when they’re getting to the quarterback. When they aren’t, the secondary is exposed and, well, it isn’t pretty. There’s no need to push the panic button just yet, the Jets are still sixth in the league with 25 sacks, led mostly by their dominant defensive line. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is the premier guy, tallying seven sacks, right up there amongst the league leaders and already a career high.

Offensive injuries: Injuries are always an issue, but this week the Jets will be especially thin on the offensive side of the ball. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, tight end Jeff Cumberland will most likely be out with a concussion, leaving Konrad Reuland and Patriots cast-off Zach Sudfeld as the only active tight ends in the wake of Kellen Winslow’s suspension. Yes, you read that correctly. Ouch. On top of that, Santonio Holmes (hamstring) will also most likely be out through the bye week, giving his hamstring ample time to get right. Making matters worse, guard Willie Colon hasn’t practiced all week with a calf injury, although he says he’s expecting to play.

X-factor:

Will the real Geno Smith please stand up (again)? Geno Smith will continue to be the x-factor for the Jets until further notice. When he plays well, the Jets find ways to win. When he doesn’t they don’t. It’s not really that simple, but it is. Smith has show flashes of being a very successful NFL quarterback, who can stretch defenses with his arm and extend plays with his legs. He’s in the top half of the league in yards (1,882) and yards per attempt (7.44) but top three in the league in interceptions (13) and top two in sacks (28). As Geno rolls, so do the Jets.

Prediction: You’d like to think the Jets will maintain their win-loss trend, at least for this week, but it just doesn’t seem likely. Not with a struggling secondary against Drew Brees and a banged up supporting class around Geno Smith. The Jets head into their Week 10 bye with a loss to the Saints, 31-17.

Cromartie’s next big test: shutting down AJ Green

Friday, October 25th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Somewhere along the line, Antonio Cromartie became a veteran, someone who has been around the block long enough to recognize talent when he sees it.

And it’s safe to say, the 29-year-old Cromartie sees something in Cincinnati Bengal’s wide receiver AJ Green.

Antonio Cromartie faces his biggest test of the season in Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver AJ Green.

“[Green reminds me] a lot of Randy Moss, I would say he’s that type of receiver just because how he attacks the ball down the field,” said Cromartie. “And also a little bit of Calvin Johnson.”

That’s high praise for a player in his third season, but Green is a dynamic playmaker with the 6-foot-4 frame to go up and get the ball, breakaway speed (4.5 second, 40-yard dash) and the versatility to play outside or shift into the slot.

“What does [Cromartie] need to do?” joked defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. “Put his hands on him and pray.”

Green is currently top-10 in the league with 43 receptions, 619 yards receiving and five touchdowns along with seven catches longer than 20 yards, 204 YAC and a 155 yard, one touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions last Sunday.

“He’s a great receiver for that team and he’s one of the best receivers in the NFL right now in our league,” said Cromartie. “They want to try to get the ball to him. The thing for us is just to be patient and try to take [our] time, pick and choose, just try to be physical and just go out there and play football, make plays on the ball when the ball’s on the field.”

After turning in his best game of the season against the New England Patriots, holding Kenbrell Thompkins to 11 yards on one reception, Cromartie will get his latest test as the Jets No. 1 cornerback in Green.

“What does the kid not have? He has size, speed, athleticism, route running [and a] great catching radius,” head coach Rex Ryan said of Green. “Like I said, in my opinion, he’s probably the best receiver in the AFC. There are some good receivers, but in my opinion, he’s probably the best.”

The silver lining for Ryan, however, is there probably isn’t a corner in the league, aside from maybe Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who has the talent and measurables to handle Green better than Cromartie.

“We’re almost about the same height so that’s the only difference that’s going to be out there,” said Cromartie. “He’s not facing a 5-foot-11 DB, he’s facing a 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 DB.”

The challenge may come for Cromartie when Green shifts into the slot, a place where the Bengals like to put him from time to time  a place where Cromartie is not used to, but certainly not afraid of playing.

“I can play anywhere,” said Cromartie. “I can play any position they need me to play, slot, outside, so that doesn’t bother me at all.”

Cromartie is having an up and down year by his standards, grading his performance a “C” in the wake of his Pro Bowl season a year ago.

However, Cromartie is by far the best shot the Jets have at slowing down Green on Sunday, as Ryan joked on Wednesday, “Well, we’re not going to put Snacks [Damon Harrison] on him.”