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.
“[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.”