Antonio Cromartie proving to be quite versatile

Antonio Cromartie celebrates with linebacker David Harris after

Antonio Cromartie celebrates with linebacker David Harris after intercepting a pass during the first half of a game against the Houston Texans. (Oct. 8, 2012) (Credit: AP)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Job No. 1 for Antonio Cromartie on Sunday at MetLife Stadium still is stopping veteran Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, but you never know what other roles the Jets might have in mind for the versatile Cromartie.

A couple of years ago, the Colts saw Cromartie return a kickoff 47 yards against them to set up the Jets' winning field goal in a playoff game. When they look at the game tape to prepare for Sunday, they will see Cromartie lined up at wide receiver for three plays in the Jets' 23-17 loss to Houston Monday night.

"If it was in the winter, he'd be playing in the NBA," special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said. "He's a very physically gifted person."

Jets coach Rex Ryan compared Cromartie to Deion Sanders, the Hall of Fame defensive back who played some wide receiver.

Ryan was impressed by how Cromartie shut down Texans Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, holding him to one catch for 15 yards. On offense, Cromartie got open deep to catch a pass from Mark Sanchez, but it was thrown slightly out of bounds. Recalling how Cromartie called himself the Jets' second-best wide receiver in training camp, Ryan said, "After he went deep, I was like, 'Shoot, he might have sold himself short.' "

But the thing that most pleases the Jets' coaching staff is the way Cromartie has elevated his game since All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending knee injury. "Cro made the statement: 'I'm the best corner in the league with him being down,' " defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "He realized it's put-up-or-shut-up time, and he responded and played really well."

Pettine added, "It's a well-kept secret that he prepares maybe better than any player I've been around."

Cromartie's commitment to assume Revis' leadership role is serious. "My No. 1 position right now is being the best corner in the NFL," Cromartie said. "Most of my time is on the defensive side of the ball, especially this week with the things they do with Reggie Wayne."

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is a rookie, but Cromartie said Luck reminds him of former Colts great Peyton Manning with his decision-making. So Cro is working to prepare the Jets' young defensive backs. "I make sure they're watching film and paying attention to their favorite routes and knowing how they're going to attack us," he said.

Of course, the Jets' receiving corps is tissue-thin, so Cromartie also is studying his pass patterns. Recalling his deep route against the Texans, Cromartie said, "I was talking trash to [DB] Johnathan Joseph a little bit. I told him, 'I play corner, too, and I just ran right by you.' "

Colts be warned.

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