“He might have as much talent as any player I’ve ever been around at the corner position. He’s got everything. He’s got the size, the height, the length, the speed, the recovery speed, probably as good ball skills as any corner I’ve been around.”- Rex Ryan, at NFL owner’s meetings in 2010.
A 6’2, 210 pound cornerback out of Florida State goes in the first round, 19th overall, to the San Diego Chargers in 2006. This happens despite the cornerback missing his entire junior season after tearing his ACL during voluntary workouts. Said cornerback enters the NFL Draft after only playing 25 collegiate games and, a year removed from tearing his ACL, runs a 4.3 40 yard dash with a 42 inch vertical. During his second year in the NFL, the aforementioned cornerback becomes the first player ever to intercept future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning multiple times in a game, and set a franchise record for interceptions in a season with 10.
The cornerback played the entire next season with a broken hip, and had only two interceptions. However, the cornerback bounced back in 2009 with, what he himself called, his best season yet with 3 interceptions and 10 passes defended. After a loss to the Jets, this cornerback has his effort questioned by teammates and the front office. He is then subsequently dealt in the offseason to the New York Jets for the 3rd round pick that became Central Washington linebacker Donald Butler. His first year in Jets’ Green is marked by great plays and maddening inconsistencies, highlighted by his 3 interceptions and 7 touchdowns allowed. He’s re-signed to a four year, $32 million contract when he becomes a free agent and is labeled a “consolation prize” by local media after Nmamdi Asomugha signs with the “Dream Team” in Philadelphia. after signing the $8M a year contract, the cornerback racks up 4 interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The cornerback is now a vital piece to Rex Ryan’s defense because his play, coupled with All-World corner Darrelle Revis, allows Rex to play them both on an island with very little safety help. Expectations are high after Jets fans have to watch Revis deal with hamstring injuries and the cornerback cover both Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall in back to back weeks and do more than hold his own. The 2012-2013 season was going to be the season where the cornerback finally put it together, right? Playing next to Revis for another full season was going to continue to push him to reach his potential, right? Then, a crazy thing happened: Darrelle Revis tore his ACL and was lost for the remainder of the 2012-2013 season (an injury that ended his Jets career). The cornerback is asked to step up in a different way now because he is replacing the best cornerback since Deion Sanders, and will be left consistently on an island against the opposing team’s number one wide receiver. How did this cornerback do after Revis went down and can he duplicate that success? Let TOJ take you through it:
Game 1 Post Revis
Matched up against former first round pick Michael Crabtree. Crabtree was held to two catches for 15 yards on seven targets. (2/7, a completion percentage of 28%Game 2
Against former first round pick Andre Johnson, and the Houston Texans, who was held to 1 catch for 15 yards on 6 targets. (1/6, 16%)
Matchup against another former first round pick in Reggie Wayne, and Wayne caught 5 passes on 10 targets for 87 yards. (5/10, 50%)Game 4
Spends some time on the game’s best slot receiver in Wes Welker, and Welker grabbed 6 receptions on 8 targets for 66 yards. (6/8, 75%)
The incorporable Ben Hartline. Hartline four passes on 6 targets for 41 yards. (4/6, 66%)
Against Sidney Rice, where he allowed his first 2 touchdowns since replacing Revis. Rice caught 2 passes on 2 targets for 54 yards. (2/2, 100%)
New Patriots’ #1 WR Danny Amendola, and Amendola caught 7 passes on 11 targets for 41 yards. (7/11, 63%)
A rematch where he spent some time on Wes Welker, who caught 7 passes on 10 targets for 71 yards, and the third TD allowed Post Revis by the cornerback. (7/10, 70%)
Against the best Wide Receiver in the game, and another former first round pick, Larry Fitzgerald, the cornerback held Fitz to 1 catch on 7 targets for 23 yards. (1/7, 14%)
Another matchup with another former first round pick in Justin Blackmon, who was held to 6 catches on 12 targets for 57 yards. (6/12, 50%)
A third straight assignment against another first round pick in Kendall Wright from Baylor and the cornerback held Wright to three catches for 31 yards on 4 targets. (3/4, 75%)
Matched up with Danario Alexander and held Danario to 3 catches on 6 targets for 69 yards. (3/6, 50%) and 1 TD.
The last game of the season yielded the cornerback’s worst game since the Revis injury, as Revis’s arch enemy Stevie Johnson torched the cornerback for 6 catches on 9 targets and 111 yards. (6/9, 66%)
Due to his elevated play after the Revis injury, he was elected to his second Pro Bowl. He allowed 53 catches on 98 targets, and a QB’s completion percentage of 54%, and three touchdowns. Because he played tremendously after Revis went down (as well as the acrimonious relationship built by Team Revis during the years), the White Mamba John Idzik decided to trade Revis now and get what you can for a player that didn’t want to stay in New York much longer. The cornerback with the “most talent” Rex has ever seen now is elevated to Rex’s shutdown corner. He was asked to restructure his contract, the one given to him since he was the consolation prize in the wake of the Nmamdi Chase, so the team can have cap space to sign some quality players, and he agreed to do so. Now, the cornerback that was called immature when the Jets acquired him due to the numerous paternity suits filed against him is taking the Jets defensive backs and Stephen Hill with him to a secondary’s version of Jets West. He, along with Mo Wilkerson, are the unquestioned leaders of the defense.
The cornerback’s name is Antonio Cromartie. Rex Ryan may have lost Darrelle Revis, the pound for pound best cornerback in the NFL when healthy. He didn’t lose the ability to watch an opposing team’s number one wide receiver dissapear on an island though. The island’s name is different, that’s all. It’s now AlCrotraz Island. Number One Wide Receivers, beware.