Knowing what his team asks of CB Antonio Cromartie and having dissected video for every snap of the eighth-year veteran's games this season, head coach Rex Ryan believes that his player is "probably" having a Pro Bowl-caliber year.
"I just think that sometimes as much man as we play, we give him the tough down, down after down," Ryan said today during his post-practice news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "Sometimes you're going to get beat, and he's been beat on a couple of them … but everybody gets beat, there's no question. I'm glad he's on our team, though, I'll say that. He takes the tough down and never flinches."
If anyone should know what it takes to be recognized as one of the best of the best, it'd be CB Antonio Cromartie. He's coming off of the second Pro Bowl selection of his career, but he disagrees with his coach's assessment that he's on his way back for trip No. 3 to Honolulu.
"It's been a tough year for me. I don't consider this as me playing at a Pro Bowl caliber at all," Cromartie said. "Just from my standpoint, I think I can play a whole lot better."
Through six games this season, he said, he's already given up three passes of 50 yards or more. Just how many big plays are acceptable to give up over the course of a season? "Zero," he said.
"That's something that for me, I take a lot of pride in and that's something that can't happen for me on the back end or for this defense on the back end," Cromartie added.
Perhaps a nagging hip injury that he's been dealing with since the start of training camp or his just-last-week hyperextended knee could explain why he's fallen short of reaching his high standards, but Cromartie scoffed at the question of if injuries could be used as an excuse.
"I don't want to say so because if I'm out on the football field, my teammates expect to get my best from me and I expect to give my best," he said, "so I'm never going to involve injuries or make an excuse for my play at all."
Fortunately, he hasn't had any setbacks.
"We had a setback on that long pass," Ryan joked, "but that was the only setback that I remember."
Statistics never tell the whole story, especially with cornerbacks and even more so when they're unofficial, but it is worth noting that after defending 50 passes and coming down with 10 interceptions in the three seasons from 2010-12, Cromartie has just two PDs and no INTs so far this season.
"I feel like I have to step my game up a lot more than what I'm playing," Cromartie said. "For me it starts by critiquing myself and it starts in practice."
Given that it starts in practice, Cro's off to a good start this week.
During this afternoon's practice, he intercepted a ball that, according to Rex, "would be hard for a guy to catch a tennis ball the way he caught a football today one-handed."
It's a start. Now it's time to have that carry over into a game.