Film Room – Antonio Cromartie Lacks Shutdown Cornerback Ability

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Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece aimed at explaining why Antonio Cromartie will never be the great cornerback that some people believe he already is. Yet recently my Twitter timeline has repeatedly told me that the Jets can afford to trade Darrelle Revis because Cromartie can step in and fill his shoes. So I’m going to try again, only this time perhaps some pictures might be worth a few thousand words.

The first play that’s up for consideration is taken from the Jets’ Week 16 encounter with the San Diego Chargers. Philip Rivers and his men are trailing by four points in the 3rd quarter, and are facing a pivotal 3rd & 7 from the Jets 37-yard line (Picture 1). Cromartie is circled in yellow, and Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander (who has only recently joined the team after being cut by the St Louis Rams) is circled in red.

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Picture 1

Despite Alexander throwing a double-move at him – something that has been a problem in the past – Cromartie’s coverage is initially good (Picture 2) and it’s worth noting that at this point he is focusing exclusively on the movement of his assigned man (inset).

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Picture 2

But when he sees Alexander turns to look over his shoulder, Cromartie decides to quit playing his man (Picture 3) and instead he seeks to locate the ball.

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Picture 3

Effectively, Cromartie has made a bad choice by gambling here but there’s still a chance that he might get lucky and hit the jackpot if Rivers comes up short on the pass. But unfortunately for the Jets no such thing happens and even Cromartie’s renowned athleticism is not enough to make up for his poor decision-making ability as Alexander hauls in the touchdown (Picture 4).

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Picture 4

To reinforce the point that while Cromartie is undoubtedly a fine athlete, his game will always be hurt by a lack of what Bill Belichick refers to as ‘FBI’ (Football Intelligence) let’s dig a little deeper into the archive and revisit Week 10’s game against the Seahawks. The ‘Hawks are up by two touchdowns with 8:08 to go in the fourth, and after two consecutive penalties they have a 1st and Goal from the Jets 23-yard line (Picture 5). If they’re to get back into the game, the Gang Green boys simply have to make a stop on this drive. The Seahawks come out with Golden Tate (turquoise) lined up at flanker, but prior to the snap he motions towards quarterback Russell Wilson and takes a handoff. Meanwhile, split end Sidney Rice (red) is ready to face off against Cromartie.

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Picture 5

Initially Cromartie does a great job of tying Rice up with press coverage but when he senses that Tate may be headed in his direction he decides to forget his coverage assignment (Picture 6) and – despite close run support from three unblocked teammates – he tentatively takes the first few steps towards tracking forwards.

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Picture 6

By the time Tate has cocked his arm to throw (Picture 7), the wide open Rice has a full six yards of separation between himself and Cromartie.

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Picture 7

Finally we’re left with the image of Cromartie gazing on helplessly as Rice pulls in the catch to plunge a final dagger into Jet hearts (Picture 8).

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Picture 8

As much as I wish it were true that Cromartie is a ‘Shutdown Corner’ the reality is that you don’t have to go through too much game tape in order to find repeated evidence of his inability to make the correct decision at the right time. He’s a tremendous athlete – that’s beyond question – but unless he suddenly develops some ‘FBI’ he will never be fit to wear the shoes of Revis and (maybe more importantly) despite how highly-prized he is by some Jets fans, GMs around the league will never be prepared to give up particularly high value in any attempt to trade for him. Like it or not, that’s the long and short of it all.

  • http://ng4 Jets Ville

    Cromartie is not nearly as good as Revis…But thats not the point… The Jets are not going to win any superbowls with 25 million dollars going to two corner backs. Even if we keep Revis Cro has to go and he will likely be replaced with an inferior player. Either way the Jets best option is to get as much as they can for Revis before he leaves for nothing!

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  • Martin

    Man, I usually respect you a lot, but you chose Cromartie’s worst two plays of the season to prove a lack of Football Intelligence. It would have been a lot better to choose a much larger sample to see if those were just mistakes or they were a trend that the opposing QB’s failed to materialize. As it is now, doesn’t give much insight.

  • paul

    @martin
    I have to disagree with you. Those two examples are just a few from his body of work. I have watched Cro play 6-10 yards off of receivers almost every time every game. I don’t see Revis doing this he is right in the WR face playing tight coverage all the time. You have to be fast and smart to play this way you make one small mistake and it can cost a CB a TD. So I thank you for pointing out some off the mistakes I have seen Cro make every year I will give him credit though he stepped up his tackling . There were a couple of games he laid out some players props for that. I do think Jets can live without Revis for the right price and picks.

  • Mark Phelan

    Cromartie lacks in discipline and intelligence. However, last year he showed us topflight CB play and a team spirit which surprised me.

    I would trade Revis. While he should recover to be ‘better’ than Cromartie, I think Cromartie’s skill shoould be enough to have the Revis type effect of having opposing QB’s look to the other side of the field.

  • Martin

    @Paul I don’t say that’s not true, but it would have been good to see some more examples in the article. Especially those plays that weren’t so blatant as the ones Steve used.

  • Steve Bateman

    Martin, I get what you’re saying bud, but I’d ask you to consider how long it takes to dredge through the game film, arrange all the artwork, and then add the words. It’s a pretty arduous process and it’s all done in spare time as a kind of hobby, if you will. Really those plays are just illustrated to draw your attention to a major problem that Cromartie has. Hopefully now you’ll be able to look out for that tendency next time you watch him play and draw your own conclusions rather than have me ram them down your throat! The idea of this column is really just to highlight strengths and weaknesses so that maybe people can see the game in a bit more depth. It’s not intended to be exhaustive. Hope this helps to maybe clear things up a little?

  • Martin

    Gotcha, and I really like what you do. My only complain is that even shutdown corners not named Darrelle Revis (see Bailey, Champ :P), make a few mental mistakes every season. It would be interesting to know if those plays are one-offs or constitute a real weakness on Cromartie’s play.

    Cheers

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  • paul

    @ Martin
    I think Cro’s biggest weakness is how far off he plays WR at the line and Revis being in the game. Let me clarify when Revis was healthy Cro’s play was ok or average but he stepped up his game when Revis went down. What if he played that way when Revis was healthy the Jets would have arguably the best CB duo in the league hands down. Unfortunately Cro’s mistakes become more obvious when Revis is in the game since he is targeted less often. What puzzles me is why Cro doesn’t play a more aggressive style at the line like Revis is it physical ability or football smarts that make him apprehensive to play this way. Perhaps that is the it factor Revis has his physicality wears WR’s down as the game plays. I do agree with you every player has mental lapses even Revis he just doesn’t have them at crucial periods of the game. I hope he remains a Jet.

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