Antonio Cromartie didn’t hesitate to throw himself in the middle of the Jets/Patriots firestorm this week by saying how he really felt about Tom Brady to the media. Yet beyond Cromartie grabbing headlines for his words or his clutch kick return in the wild-card game against Indy, is this reality: he needs to play much, much better on defense this Sunday if the Jets want a chance at an upset.
Cromartie had a relatively strong start to the year, however he has struggled in coverage lately. New England picked on him in their 45-3 route, particularly with Deion Branch. He was beat for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears by Johnny Knox and last week Pierre Garcon beat him up and down the field, including for a 52 yard touchdown.
We know Darrelle Revis is taking the player he is covering out of the game. However, the Jets need Cromartie to compliment him with the Pro-Bowl level play that he is capable of. He has the size to occasionally match-up with one of the Patriots tight ends and the speed to handle any of their receivers.
You can bet that Tom Brady will be throwing at Cromartie early and often on Sunday. If the Jets want to pull off the upset, Cromartie better be ready to tackle in the open field and make at least one of those highlight reel interceptions he is known for.
There is no question #31 has the physical skills to shut down whomever he is matched up against on New England. The question is, can he rise to the occasion in a big game?