Last season, Antonio Cromartie stepped out of the shadow of injured Darrelle Revis and showed he, too, could play like a premier cover cornerback. But with Revis having moved on to Tampa Bay as a free agent this season, Cromartie has experienced a tough year as leader of a Jets secondary that ranks only 25th in average passing yardage allowed.
Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace last Sunday said it was clear to him Cromartie was playing hurt in the Jets’ 23-3 loss to Miami. On Friday, Cromartie admitted the truth about how his left hip injury has affected him.
“It just changes the way I try to play,” Cromartie said. “If you watch the film, I wasn’t in a lot of ‘press’ coverage at all. Last week, I didn’t really practice at all. This week, I practiced a lot more. I feel a lot more comfortable, especially this game with understanding what we’re trying to do and what Oakland does with their offense.”
Jets coach Rex Ryan often puts his corners in man-to-man coverage on the outside receivers with the expectation they will play tight and physical. But Cromartie had to give the Dolphins’ receivers a cushion because of his condition.
“It affects things because, when he can get his hands on a guy and play from the press position and he’s healthy, he can be a dominant player,” Ryan said. “It’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to do that. You lose the length of his arms, his height and everything else that makes it so difficult [to get open against him]. Hopefully, he’s ready to do that this week.”
The Raiders will arrive at MetLife Stadium with rookie Matt McGloin starting at quarterback. McGloin has gone 1-2 as the starter since replacing injured Terrelle Pryor, and Oakland’s passing game has improved with the former Penn State passer, who has thrown for an average of 237.3 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in that time.
Cromartie said McGloin reminds him of former Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy. “He’s a smart kid,” Cromartie said. “The thing he does is get rid of the ball quick. He’s making his decisions very quick. He’s reading the defense and taking what it gives him. He’s not trying to force anything.”
Despite three straight losses, Cromartie said the Jets’ attitude and body language have remained positive this week. As a former member of Florida State’s football program, Cromartie has another reason to feel buoyant.
The Seminoles are the No. 1 ranked team in the nation heading into Saturday’s ACC championship game against Duke, and he is especially pleased the state of Florida decided against prosecuting redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston on allegations of sexual assault, citing the difficulty of getting a conviction based on the evidence and conflicting stories.
“I was happy for him,” Cromartie said of Winston, who ranks as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. “It speaks volumes for the program for a redshirt freshman being put up for the Heisman. I’m glad it worked out in the best favor for him. He is the leader of the team. I’m happy for the program.”
It would take an upset of monumental proportions for Duke to prevent Florida State from reaching the BCS title game, but it’s uncertain whether the Seminoles will face No. 2 Ohio State, which must win the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, or the winner of the SEC title game between No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 Missouri.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cro crowed. “Florida State can play whoever they want to play. We’ve got this in the bag. The cat’s in the bag.”