Antonio Cromartie came to the Jets in 2010 with a reputation of a player who was overrated and in decline on the field as well as a being a wild, party animal off of it. In three short years, he has not only regained his form on the field but has stabilized himself off the field becoming a leader who is tasked with replacing a legend.
In 2010, when the Jets traded a conditional 3rd round pick to the San Diego Chargers for cornerback Antonio Cromartie the move was questioned on a number of levels. First, Cromartie’s play in San Diego had seemed to steadily decline from his apex in 2007 when he recorded 10 interceptions. Most questioned his technique in off man coverage and zone, while his concentration lapses & a lack of awareness of the play around him were also concerns. Second, off the field he was a punchline for having 7 children by 6 women in 5 states. His segment on Hard Knocks where he appeared to struggle to remember the names of all of his children evidenced that. There was no doubt he could play but could he regain Pro Bowl form especially in a city surrounded by temptation.
In his first season with the Jets he was wildly inconsistent breaking up 17 passes, intercepting 3 but allowing 7 touchdowns. That had to do with the adjustment to Rex Ryan’s complex defense coupled with the fact that opposing quarterbacks did not throw at All-Pro Darrelle Revis who lined up opposite Cromartie in the defensive backfield. The following season in 2011 Cromartie improved. He allowed the 8th best completion percentage in the league at 46.4%, the 5th best yards per attempt allowed on short throws at 3 which was better than even Revis and was 15th in overall yards per attempt allowed with 6 to go with his 4 interceptions. He still had more than his share of mental lapses allowing 6 touchdowns and getting called for more than his share of penalties. In 2012, Cromartie returned to Pro Bowl form allowing a catch rate of 46% which was lowest among every down corners. He only gave up 511 yards all year in his coverage while limiting opposing receivers to a first down or touchdown on just 4.36% of plays good for 8th in the league. All this with having to take over Darrelle Revis’ role after the star corner was lost to the year with an ACL injury.
Off the field we have seen a completely different person than we were led to believe existed. Cromartie has looked at his time with the Jets as a second chance. The Jets fronted him $50,000 from his salary after the trade to satisfy his child support debts. The same year he married Terricka Cason who has been a stabilizing force helping Antonio settle down and become a family man. Gone are the negative headlines and jokes replaced now by interviews with thoughtful, intelligent responses from someone who has matured as a leader. Here is a quote from a May 16 ESPNNewYork.com article by Kieran Darcy on his role after the Revis trade ”You just gotta move forward. You can’t pout about it,” Cromartie said. “It’s a business. I think my job here is just to make sure, for one, that I’m ready to go out and play and make sure that the younger guys are ready to come out and play. That’s the kind of role I’m trying to take on, and make sure guys are doing what they’re supposed to do.” Cromartie has worked with Kyle Wilson this offseason and has watched tape of Dee Milliner so he can better understand and help improve the rookie’s game.
The Jets are getting the very best of Antonio Cromartie at the most opportune time. The team needs him to step up and fill the void left by Darrelle Revis and now more than ever it looks like Cromartie is equal to the task. As we have seen Antonio grow each year with the Jets it is safe to say that best may still be yet to come.