Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
With the absence of Darrelle Revis from Rex Ryan’s defense over the last couple of years, Antonio Cromartie has been asked to step up and play some of his best football—in 2012 he did just that. As such, he’s routinely asked to cover the opponent’s best weapon each and every week.
This year, however, Antonio has struggled mightily through eight weeks, looking more like a distracted man than a Pro Bowler.
He currently has the second-lowest grade of all cornerbacks who have played at least 25 percent of the team’s snaps, per Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required). He has also failed to register a single interception while also allowing his opponents three touchdown receptions on the season.
Come Sunday, there’s a good chance the Jets hand Cromartie the arduous and near-impossible task of shutting down one of the league’s most dangerous mismatches, tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham has the obvious size advantage, as his 6’7”, 265-pound frame towers over every NFL defensive back.
Though Cromartie is a big cornerback by NFL standards, the five-inch difference in height would be a great disadvantage for anyone. It would take a completely focused and inspired Antonio all week long, which just so happens to be something Rex is very good at. He knows how to properly motivate and challenge his players.
Plus, we must remember New England’s Aqib Talib was assigned to shadow Graham in its Week 6 win over the Saints. In that game Graham was indeed shut out and shut down by the much smaller Talib. The star tight end was shockingly held without a catch on six targets before leaving the game with an injury.
With a successful model laid out to fall back on, Cromartie will need to take careful notes from that matchup and play one of his better games as a pro in order to shut down New Orleans’ highly talented tight end. After all, Graham does lead all tight ends with 630 yards through the air.
The quickness, agility and flat-out speed of Cromartie should even things up a bit and keep this matchup interesting.