He went from hero to zero in a week’s time.
Last Sunday afternoon, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was basking in a performance against the Jaguars that would earn him AFC Defensive Player of the Week. With two touchdowns, two long kickoff returns and even a snap on offense, Cromartie put in an effort for the ages in the blowout win. But as he limped off the field in Oakland on Sunday, headed to Eden Medical Center with an injury to his ribs, it wasn’t a day to remember for Cromartie. He had four penalties, including two pass interference calls, in the 34-24 loss to Oakland.
“Every team comes in with a game plan and with what they want to do and how to attack defenses. I think some of those calls could have went both ways, but they called them on Cromartie and that was the calls,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We got to play through them. Those plays, it was bad field position on some of them. It did put us in a bind, but we don’t try to make excuses. We try to finish the drive out and try to stop the offense.”
The irony, of course, is that Cromartie could have been on the Raiders had free agency worked out a little differently. In July, as the Jets were heavily pursuing Nnamdi Asomugha, Cromartie was linked to a move to the West Coast to play for the “Silver & Black.” The Jets struck out on Asomugha and Cromartie re-signed with New York, inking a four-year, $32 million dollar deal.
Cromartie’s first blunder came in the game’s opening drive when he got flagged for pass interference on rookie Denarius Moore. The 25-yard penalty set up a big play to tight end Kevin Boss and then a one-yard run by Darren McFadden, giving the Raiders an early 7-0 lead. It was an unsettling start.
He also struggled on special teams, including a badly botched return in the fourth quarter when he fumbled a line drive kickoff. The gaffe was costly, giving the Raiders the ball on the 14-yard line and setting up a touchdown that would make the score 34-14 and essentially ice the game.
The pressure on Cromartie to contribute on defense and special teams might be taking its toll on the player. In games like Jacksonville where the Jets are clearly rolling, the pressure on Cromartie to perform at a high level might mean that he can play on both sides of the ball and special teams to showcase his talent. But against a Raiders team that looks like it could make a serious challenge for the AFC West title, it might be asking too much physically from Cromartie to play so many snaps.
“It’s certainly something we’ll look at. But, I think ‘Cro’ is one of the best returners in the game,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We definitely needed a huge return there and unfortunately, he mishandled it.”
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