Antonio Cromartie was all over the place in yesterday's OTA session, wowing even some of his own teammates with his impressive skill set.
"He's been wilding us out with just his insane play," fellow CB Darrelle Revis said.
Cromartie put on a solid display when guarding his man and flashed his hand-eye coordination when he made a few one-handed acrobatic pass breakups. During position drills, he also caught a few balls with just his right hand -- easily.
But the thing that caught my eye most watching Cromartie in person for the first time was his ability to make something happen on kickoffs. Cromartie has unbelievably long strides and just appears to be a natural returning kicks. He looked comfortable and you can see he has great vision to get the ball up the field.
He was one of four players returning kicks yesterday -- WR Brad Smith, CB Kyle Wilson and WR Larry Taylor were the others -- but he easily stood out. His strides are seemingly in 10-yard intervals and he gets from Point A to Point B rather quickly.
With that in mind, I asked Rex if returning kicks is in the plans for Cromartie.
"I think if the game is on the line, you may see him," he said. "[Mike] Westhoff thinks he’s going to get him the whole time. I’m like, 'Yeah Mike, as far as you know, you can have him back there.' He looks pretty good doesn’t he? His stride is only about five yards long, so I was telling [backup TE Matthew] Mulligan that when they run, they remind me of each other.
"It's crazy isn’t it? I’ve never seen a stride like that. It’s amazing. Secretariat maybe stretched like that. He gets out there. It wasn’t a bad pickup, I don’t think."
Cromartie didn't exactly lobby for the role, but he said returning kicks is something he actually enjoys. He's averaged 23.3 yards per return in 19 kicks in his first four seasons, with the longest being a 91-yarder during his rookie year in 2006.
"I like it," he said. "I’ve been doing it since high school. To me, I think it just comes natural. We have a great special teams coach. I’m looking forward to it. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help out as much as possible."
Teaching his fellow teammates his running style would be a good start.
"I ran track in college, so I go back to track form when I get in the open field," Cromartie said. "I know how to use my speed, slow it down and when to accelerate."
He'll likely need to use every attribute he has this season since he'll be opposite Revis. The two are beginning to get a feel for how the other plays now that they're able to actually get on the field during these OTAs.
And Cromartie is absolutely thrilled with the way things are going with him and his All-Pro secondary mate.
"It has been great, to tell you the truth," Cromartie said. "We sit by each other in the meeting room, so we try to correct each other and just try to work out the best we can to make the secondary the best it can be, and make us one of the best tandems ever."