IN THE ABSENCE OF STARS DARRELLE REVIS AND SANTONIO HOLMES, ANTONIO CROMARTIE LEAVES HIS IMPRESSION ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — With Revis Island closed for renovations that has meant Cromartie’s Corner is on shutdown status. For the Jets, that’s exactly what they need from their big-mouth, bigger play-making cornerback/wide receiver.
Just to recap, Antonio Cromartie believes he’s the best remaining cornerback in the NFL and the team’s best remaining receiving threat — now that Holmes is out for the season.
“I’m focused on being the best corner I can be right now and that is about it. Whenever I get that chance and when my number is being called to play on offense, I will go out there and handle the play,” Cromartie said after Monday night’s game.
At the time when he made these proclamations, he looked more like Miss Cleo than Nostradamus. But now? He may be on to something with all his bravado. And Rex Ryan is buying what the All-Pro Cro has been selling.
“I think when he made those comments, it was because he believes it. And quite honestly he has the athletic ability to be the best corner in the league. We’ve always said he has the most ability than anyone I’ve ever seen at that position. Him and Deion. He’s starting to play that way,” Ryan said Thursday.
Fellow corner Kyle Wilson said it’s nothing new for the guys in this locker room.
“I know what he’s capable of. I know that everybody here knows what kind of athlete he is and what he’s can do on the field. Maybe other people don’t know, but we do,” Wilson said.
Is Antonio Cromartie really the best corner in the NFL? He thinks so. And so does his head coach. (JetsInsider.com Photo).
Add wide receivers Brian Hartline and Andre Johnson to the list of players who know what he’s capable of.
Since the season-ending ACL tear for Revis, Cromartie has been nothing short of spectacular. Against the Dolphins he held Hartline to one reception on nine targets — a week later Hartline amassed 200+ receiving yards. And against Johnson, Cromartie didn’t allow a single reception when covering the All-Pro WR — jumping his route for an interception that would sent up the Jets only offensive touchdown on the evening.
“That’s pretty impressive. I’m happy we have Cro, to say the least,” Ryan said.
The job doesn’t get any easier for Cromartie, who draws the tough match-up of Reggie Wayne this week against the Colts — who’s of the notion that age is only a number after a 200-yard performance in their home victory over the Packers last Sunday.
“It’s going to be tough. I think it would be easier if they just sat [Wayne] down where he’s usually been, but recently [the Colts] have been moving him around a lot. It’s hard to get your hands on him. They put him in the slot, bunch sets, snugs or two-man bunches. They don’t want you to get your hands on him,” Ryan said.
Despite the occasional mental lapse, Cromartie has been — by most accounts — the second-best corner in the league. Second only to Revis, of course.
In 2011, Cromartie had the fourth best burnt percentage of all corners with 41.6% — getting burnt only 37 times out of a possible 89 attempts. [NOTE: Burn percentage tracks how a defensive player performs in defending passes in which he is targeted. A "burn" occurs when a targeted defensive player allows a completed pass, according to StatsPass.] Revis was second with 40.4%. In fact, since joining the Jets he has the third best burnt percentage in that time with 43%, to Revis’ 38.7%. His nine interceptions in that time ranks third in the league — trailing only Devin McCourty and Jason Allen, but only Cromartie ranks in the top three of both statistics since 2010.
On the other side of the ball, Cromartie continues to catch the eye of Ryan. When asked to comment on the remarks by FA WR Terrell Owens that the Jets are more desperate than he is in regards to having Cromartie play receiver, Ryan laughed it off.
“Let’s face it, he was the second best receiver on our team [on Monday]. After he went deep I was like, ‘Shoot, he might’ve sold himself short’.”
Cromartie continues to work with wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal during practice as he did Thursday afternoon. However Ryan still states that he will be used in “emergency” situations, much like how Joe McKnight has been used as cornerback.
“I’m just here to help out as much as possible whenever my number is called on the offensive side of the ball, but my main focus is to be the best corner in the NFL right now,” he said.
No matter what side of the ball he’s on, we know Cromartie will feel confident about it.