Now that he's in position to experience just how good Odell Beckham Jr. really is, Antonio Cromartie is applying the technique that every cornerback learns at an early age: He's backpedaling as fast as he can.
You recall the incendiary comments Cromartie made while sitting in the ESPN studios in early October, when he referred to the Giants' phenom receiver as a "one-year wonder" and accused Beckham of "sucker-punching somebody" during a game against the Bills. "I'm just being honest," Cromartie said at the time. "It's just one year. I need to see it on an every-game basis."
But less than a week before Cromartie will see Beckham up close and in person -- and perhaps cover him in Sunday's Jets-Giants game at MetLife Stadium -- the cornerback has turned down the volume.
"Honestly, I haven't watched him at all this week. I don't know anything that's going on with him," Cromartie said on a conference call Monday, a day after the Jets' 38-20 win over the Dolphins. "Overall, I still feel like there's so much more for him to grow. He's a young athlete that can make catches."
Cromartie added that Beckham "does have a lot of room to grow to be the guy that everyone knows he can be."
Evidently, the cornerback known for talking smack is dialing it down in the run-up to the game. Cromartie said he hadn't even seen Beckham's acrobatic touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Giants' 20-14 loss to Washington on Sunday.
"I haven't had a chance to look at film of what he's done," Cromartie said.
It remains to be seen how the Jets will defend Beckham, mostly because of the uncertainty surrounding Darrelle Revis, who remains in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Jets coach Todd Bowles said Revis is making some progress but that it's still too soon to know if he can play. Complicating matters: Revis' fill-in, Marcus Williams, is dealing with a knee sprain. In his absence, the Jets moved Buster Skrine to the outside and had Darrin Walls at nickel corner.
How the Jets defend Beckham could be the most important individual matchup of the game, although Giants quarterback Eli Manning cautions that other factors will be at work. If Revis does play, he likely will shadow Beckham.
"We'll have to see what routes we want him running and we'll put him in a position to win some one-on-one matchups," Manning said. "We'll see what their game plan is and see how it plays out. For me, it's not about Odell versus Revis, it's about our offense versus the Jets' defense."
If Revis can't go, Cromartie is confident the Jets can respond. "Honestly, the way coach Bowles and Kacy [Rodgers, the defensive coordinator] do it, there's nothing different ,'' he said. "Just go out and play football and have fun and make the plays we need to make."
Minus the trash talk, presumably. Bowles often reminds his players not to engage the opposition in a war of words, and it should be noted that Cromartie's earlier comments about Beckham came during the Jets' bye week. That said, the cornerback was more tempered in his assessment now that game time is fast approaching.
But it also might be because Beckham's dominance can't be refuted. In 12 games last year, he set franchise records with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 11 games this year, he has 72 catches for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns.
Memo to Cromartie: Beckham is no one-year wonder, sir. He probably is the best receiver you'll face this season, so if there's any talking to be done this week, it's best to do it on the field.