There is a false notion floating around that Antonio Cromartie didn't have a solid 2011 season. The New York Jets cornerback was the victim of some bad luck, and with many just looking at the results of plays instead of how Antonio Cromartie actually did in coverage, he has gotten a bad rap. Prior to the 2011 NFL season, Giants 101 showed how Eli Manning was the victim of some bad luck in 2010. Now, it's our turn to defend Antonio Cromartie.
Our defense of New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was sparked by a recent ranking of AFC East cornerbacks by James Walker of ESPN. We have been defending Cromartie for a long time, but there is still a misconception that he struggled last season. Walker ranked Darrelle Revis first and Antonio Cromartie second in the AFC East. Nice praise for the tandem, but here's what Walker wrote about Cromartie:
"Cromartie had a down year in 2011. But his body of work is good enough to earn Cromartie second place on this list. He's still an above-average corner. New York plays a lot of man-to-man coverage, and Cromartie gets plenty of opportunities because teams prefer to avoid Revis. But last year was hit or miss with Cromartie. Sometimes he won the battles, sometimes he didn’t. Cromartie’s tackling also leaves a lot to be desired. But when it comes to athleticism and play-making ability, Cromartie is better than most corners."
Some fair points made about Cromartie's tackling – no one has ever confused him with a solid tackler – but it's unfair to say that Cromartie had a "down year in 2011." Cromartie was hit with some really bad luck that made his numbers look worse than his play, and the overall numbers still weren't bad.
Bad Luck Play No. 1 – Jump Ball to Dez Bryant: The tough luck started early for Antonio Cromartie. In the season opener, with the Dallas Cowboys at the Jets' three yard line, he was matched up one-on-one in the end zone with Dez Bryant. Cromartie had good position and Tony Romo threw up a jump ball that Bryant came down with. A 50/50 play that Cromartie had good coverage on, but went against him.
Bad Luck Play No. 2 – Simultaneous Possession with Miles Austin: Things didn't get any better for Antonio Cromartie in that Dallas game. After giving up that jump ball touchdown to Bryant in the first quarter, Romo tried to hit Miles Austin in the end zone from 34 yards out. Cromartie made a great play on the ball, but Austin reached his hands in and tried to rip it away. It was ruled simultaneous possession, which is awarded to the offense. Very close to being a highlight reel interception for Cromartie, but instead a touchdown surrendered. Bad. Luck.
Bad Luck Play No. 3 – Tipped Pass Goes into Brad Smith's Hands for Long Touchdown: On this play, Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tried to hit Brad Smith deep against Antonio Cromartie, as shown in the video above. Cromartie makes a great play on the ball, getting his hand up and tipping it up into the air as he fell down. The ball went straight up in the air and Smith caught it off the tip for a 36-yard touchdown. Nice play, great coverage, bad luck.
Three really tough plays that went against Cromartie for touchdowns despite perfect positioning and making a good play on the ball. Throw in the ticky-tack calls that went against him in the game against the Oakland Raiders last season, and Cromartie really had some tough luck.
Despite all of that, according to Pro Football Focus, Cromartie was the seventh-best cornerback in the NFL in terms of completion percentage against. Quarterbacks completed 46.4% of their passes against Cromartie, while completing 41.2% against Revis.
But he had a "down year in 2011."
Also, remember all the talk about teams picking on Antonio Cromartie because they don't want to throw at Darrelle Revis? It's false. Cromartie was so good last season that teams threw at Revis just as much as they threw at Cromartie. Teams threw at Cromartie 85 times, while throwing at Revis 84 times.
But he had a "down year in 2011."
No, he didn't. He was more physical and clearly more comfortable in the Jets' heavy-man coverage scheme. Expect the results to even out in 2012.
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