Never has one player been hyped so much, so long, for nearly catching a pass.
The Jets inserted cornerback Antonio Cromartie at wide receiver midway through the second quarter of last week’s game. Lining up on the right side with the receivers split, Cromartie ran full speed down the field, stutter-stepped, then bounced outside as quarterback Mark Sanchez pump faked and fired a deep pass toward the near sideline. Cromartie made the catch, but failed to keep his feet in bounds, perhaps due to Sanchez’s placement of the pass.
Even though it was an incompletion, the play is now being celebrated by head coach Rex Ryan as proof that Cromartie is a viable option on offense, something Cromartie said in training camp.
“Let’s face it, he was the second best receiver on our team. After he went deep I was like ‘Shoot man, he might have sold himself short.’” What’s funny is when he was at Florida State, I’ve mentioned this before, his Pro Day, he worked out as a corner but he also worked out as a receiver,” Ryan said. “Obviously he never had tape to back it up, [but] watching him run those drills, he looked like a first-round receiver. That’s kind of the ability he has. He has size, speed, change of direction and he has great ball skills.”
The good news is he finally seems to be stepping up the defensive side of the game.
With All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis likely out for the season with an ACL tear, Cromartie is now the Jets’ go-to player in the secondary. Against Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson on Monday night, arguably one of the game’s purest threats, Cromartie sparkled in holding Johnson to just one catch for 15 yards. It was the first time all season Johnson has not had multiple receptions.
And the performance last week against Johnson allowed Ryan to invoke a comparison to Deion Sanders, probably the game’s best ever cornerback.
“Quite honestly he has that kind of athletic ability where he could be the best corner in league. I think he’s definitely stepped up. I see it in the meeting rooms, he’s been taking some of that leadership over with that back end,” Ryan said. “He understands that Darrelle is a great football player, but I think he took it as ‘I have to step up now.’ We’ve always said he’s got more ability than anyone I’ve seen at that position — him and Deion. He’s starting to play that way.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.