FLORHAM PARK, N.J. –Antonio Cromartie is in an unusual position in this New York Jets locker room of having played for both former head coach Rex Ryan and current head coach Todd Bowles. And in the eyes of the Jets Pro Bowl cornerback, accountability will be the biggest thing Bowles brings to this team.
Cromartie was with the Jets and Ryan from 2010 up until last season when he left for the Arizona Cardinals via free agency. In Arizona, his defensive coordinator was Bowles, the man now charged with bringing the Jets back to the playoffs for the first time since that 2010 season.
It's a bit of a mess that Bowles walks into, a Jets team with very few draft picks from the past two seasons ready to step into a starting role and a locker room that hasn't tasted the postseason in four years. So the Jets went out and made a big splash via free agency trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and signing cornerback Darrelle Revis as well as Cromartie. Suddenly the Jets have talent and star power and perhaps more importantly, they have Bowles.
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In Bowles, the locker room has a head coach who was a player in the NFL and who understands the demands put on any player on the roster. But unlike their last head coach, Bowles is also big on discipline and accountability, words that were never synonymous with Ryan.
“I think the biggest thing is just, you're just going to have guys doing what they're supposed to do. He was a straightforward guy. A guy who is going to make sure they are going to do what they're supposed to do on and off the field,” Cromartie said on Tuesday at the start of voluntary training camp.
“I can't really speak to last year, I wasn't here I was in a different locker room. I know what Todd is looking for, and that's guys doing what they're supposed to, doing their jobs, making sure they're doing their jobs off the field and representing this team and this organization the right way.”
Those comments very much fall in line with what other players have been saying over the course of the offseason. There was a sense that Ryan didn't run a tight enough ship, that he was too much of a player's coach and that this led to a lack of accountability within the locker room.
Look no further than last year on a Saturday prior to a game at the San Diego Chargers where Geno Smith and several teammates were late to a meeting because they went at a movie. No one was benched or disciplined for their tardiness.
But while the Jets will transition to a more stern head coach and one with higher standards off the field, the on the field transition in terms of the playbook might not be terribly steep – at least not on the defensive side of the ball. Cromartie said that the Bowles defense he played in last season is similar to the Ryan system he was in for four years. Cornerback Buster Skrine said that the cornerbacks will be asked to press, similar to Ryan's scheme. Other players sound similar notes of familiarity between the scheme last year and this year under Bowles.
The terminology has changed and Cromartie said Bowles will blitz more than Ryan but as someone who has played for both head coaches, he doesn't see a steep period of transition.
“Honestly it feels great, from the standpoint of just knowing what he wants from his defense, understand what kind of guys that he's looking for. Guys that will come out and compete every single day, come in to work every single day,” Cromartie said.
“Not afraid to go out make a mistake, go out there playing full-speed. That's what he's looking for.”
Cromartie also poke about his role on this team as one of the older players- “the veterans doing the right thing” - and paving the way for this team to be successful.