FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - It wasn't until Antonio Cromartie actually saw all his teammates gathered on the field that he realized just how good this year's Jets defense can be. Cromartie got that glimpse on Tuesday.
"Me and Marcus Gilchrist were talking during walk-through, and we stood back and we were like, 'This defense looks crazy,' " Cromartie said of his conversation with the Jets' free safety, who was signed as a free agent. "All the talent that's here, all the first-round picks you have on the front line, guys that can run and actually play this game. The way [coach] Todd [Bowles] calls his defense, it's going to be fun."
The Jets had a major makeover on defense during the offseason, with Cromartie coming back to the team after a one-year hiatus in Arizona and joining several talented free-agent acquisitions. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis headlined the group, which also includes Gilchrist and slot cornerback Buster Skrine. The Jets also drafted USC defensive end Leonard Williams, widely considered the best defensive player in the draft.
"Now it's just the point of everyone jelling together, being accountable to each other, everyone playing at a high level week in and week out," Cromartie said. "We're playing for each other."
Cromartie is particularly enthusiastic about the revamped secondary.
"You add a guy with Pro Bowl caliber with Buster Skrine and add him to the slot," Cromartie said. "It's like, which one of us is going to lead the league in picks? We have to make sure we capitalize. I know I've dropped a lot of picks. Revis doesn't get too many opportunities, and you get a guy like Skrine, I think he's going to be a key guy in this defense, covering all the slot receivers. That's where most of the balls are going to go with Todd's defense."
It's hard to imagine the Jets not being markedly better than last year, when they had only six interceptions, tied with the Jaguars and Chiefs for the fewest in the NFL. Bowles' attacking style of defense, combined with the new players in the secondary, should address that issue.
"If you look at [Bowles'] stats from last year [in Arizona], I think we blitzed like 51 or 52 percent of the time," Cromartie said. "The point of his style of defense is to be aggressive and have fun, make sure guys play fast."
Cromartie was heartened to see defensive end Mo Wilkerson, who wants a contract extension and had stayed away from the team's offseason conditioning program and OTAs. Cromartie believes Wilkerson can greatly benefit from Bowles' scheme.
"Mo's a guy that's been very involved with this team," Cromartie said. "He plays at a high level, understands what he has to try to do. I think him playing this scheme, you'll see a double-digit sack [season] from Muhammad Wilkerson."