New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan always has something interesting to say; he was by far the most entertaining coach to take the podium at the Combine last month. But when he sat down for his media breakfast at the Owner's Meetings on Tuesday, his mind was on football. Specifically, the addition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie(notes), the former Charger who was traded to the Jets for a conditional third-round pick in 2011. Ryan already has the best cornerback in the league in Darrelle Revis(notes); what he'd like to do now is add Cromartie's skills and have something like the Raiders did back in the heyday of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes -- two absolute lockdown corners.
Ryan, a defensive genius in his own right, had nothing but good to say about Cromartie, who bagged 10 picks in 2007, but only five total in the two years since. 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. When you combine him with Darrelle Revis, that's going to be a pretty lethal combination. It's going to allow us to not just roll our coverage to one corner or another, which we had to do a lot last year. I think we're not going to let teams lock in on what we're doing defensively. It will also give us flexibility where we can lock Darrelle down on a nickel spot and play (Dwight) Lowery outside or vice versa. From a matchup standpoint, this will be a tremendous advantage for us."
Ryan remembered scouting Cromartie back in his Baltimore days, when the young corner was a promising prospect out of Florida State. "It was the best workout I'd ever seen a player have," Ryan said of Cromartie's Pro Day. "He'd only played maybe 1 game that year, was hurt, had the (knee) injury, missed the whole season and he was still a first-round pick. That'll tell you about his athleticism. Then he had the 10-interception year. He's got that kind of ability. If you want to target the ball away from Revis, don't be short with (the pass), that's all I'll say."
Noted for his sheer athletic ability coming out of college, Cromartie has also been saddled with an inconsistency that's partially a product of his limited experience early on -- he played in only 25 games at FSU, and he's still learning as he goes. Of course, there's the small matter of having other things on his mind. When the Jets acquired him, they advanced him $500,000 to deal with multiple paternity suits. As impressive as 10 interceptions in one season may be, Cromartie's most unique metric might be the fact that he's fathered seven children by six different women in five states.
Ryan's response to Cromartie's paternity issues was a fine example of why players want to play for him -- he seems to be able to strike a correct balance between understanding and discipline.. "I think it's probably pretty obvious to him now. He had some maturing to do and all that stuff. When you meet him, you'll see. He's a nice young man. Is he perfect? Probably not, but I don't think anybody is. That's just some issues off the field. It doesn't affect him as a football player. I'm sure if he everything to do all over again, he'd do things differently. But at least he's a guy that's taking care of his children financially doing the right things. You can't change the past. You can just move forward, and that's what he's ready to do."
If Cromartie can live up to his potential (and it's one of our mottos at Shutdown Corner: If you're a defensive player and Rex Ryan can't coach you up, you're uncoachable), the Jets have to be a favorite to go a very long way in the AFC's Super Bowl hunt.