San Diego Chargers defensive back Antonio Cromartie is talking like he has one foot out the door, and may be the next player to leave the team amid recent trade rumors.
In a Monday night interview on SIRIUS NFL Radio with hosts Bryan McGovern and Jim Miller, Cromartie voiced his displeasure about the way the Chargers played defense last season.
The biggest problem in his opinion was that the Chargers style of play wasn't aggressive enough and the defense relied heavily on the zone coverage rather than man to man coverage. Cromartie praised former Chargers defensive coordinators Wade Phillps and Ted Cottrell, saying the defense was much more aggressive under their control.
Could that be a personal shot at current Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera?
Rivera has been in control of the Chargers defense since being promoted after the firing of Ted Cottrell midway through the 2008 season.
In 2007, while Cottrell was the defensive coordinator, the Chargers led the NFL with 30 interceptions. In the last two seasons combined the Chargers defense managed only 29 interceptions.
Cromartie does seem to have a point.
The former first-round draft choice out of Florida State made his presence known even before he became a full-time starter in Week 10 of the 2007 season. Playing in his first game against Houston, Cromartie would recover an errant punt snap in the endzone and return an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. The following week against Minnesota, he would set an NFL record that will never be broken, returning a missed field goal 109 yards as time expired at the end of the first half.
Cromartie, having only started just 8 games, would post an NFL-leading 10 interceptions. He would record a career-high three interception game against reigning MVP Peyton Manning, including a one-handed leaping interception that ended up making ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 highlight reel. He added another interception against the Colts' star quarterback during a Chargers playoff win.
The talented defensive back's accolades earned him his first Pro Bowl selection in 2007.
Cromartie's production has declined since his remarkable 2007 campaign. He finished 2008 with two interceptions both coming in the third game of season, and would later claim that he played with a broken hip. His 2009 season wasn't much better and he fell short of expectations with only three interceptions.
However, Antonio Cromartie's off-field problems can be a cause for alarm.
His biggest distraction has been paternity suits. He currently has seven children living in five different states. In the last two years, Cromartie has been named in five paternity suits.
That alone would cause most teams to balk at signing him. No NFL team wants to be in the headlines because one of their players is getting sued by a baby mama, or is failing to pay child support.
It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. Will Cromartie be with San Diego next season or will he find himself defending against his old team? Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is the only one to know that answer, and only time will tell.
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