After shutting down two of the NFL's top wide receivers already this season, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie will face another big challenge Sunday in the Colts' Reggie Wayne.
Wayne has been virtually unstoppable this season as he ranks second in the league with 506 receiving yards through the Colts' first four games.
The 12th-year veteran is coming off a 13-reception, 212-yard, one-touchdown performance during the Colts' 30-27 win over Green Bay.
"Just from watching the film, they move him everywhere and try to get him where guys can't get their hands on him, and they try to motion him a lot," Cromartie said. "So they do a lot of great things in their offense to try and get everybody moving around and trying to make sure that they're making the right reads and things like that. So I think the biggest thing for us is to just play with our eyes, on our feet, and just try to compete for the ball when the ball is in the air."
The Dolphins' Brian Hartline, leading all NFL receivers with 514 yards on 29 catches, was held to one catch on nine passes targeted for him mainly by Cromartie's coverage two weeks ago. The Texans' Andre Johnson had one catch on six targets on Monday night.
Cromartie played a pivotal role in the last meeting between the Jets and Colts, the 2010 AFC Wild Card Game. With just under a minute remaining and the Jets trailing, 16-14, he returned a kickoff 47 yards, giving the offense excellent field position to begin its gamewinning field goal drive.
"Right now what we're looking at as we're still one game back from being in first place," the cornerback said. "The biggest thing is we have an AFC conference game coming up, so we've got to make sure that we come in and try to win this game at home, then just take care of what we need to take care of from that point on."
Jets head coach Rex Ryan said at his news conference this morning that he believes Cromartie has elevated his game ever since Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis went down with a torn left ACL against Miami back on Sept. 23. No. 31 agrees with his coach's statement.
"I'm just trying to do my best and make sure that the younger guys are doing the same, making sure they're playing at a high level, too," he said.
Ryan also noted that he felt Cromartie had the skills and intangibles to be a first-round wide receiver after watching him work at the position during his 2006 pro day back at Florida State. After getting some reps at wideout during training camp at SUNY Cortland, "Cro" saw his first action of the season at WR on Monday night against the Texans. He played three plays on offense and had two passes targeted for him. One he caught out of bounds, the other was deflected behind the line before it got to him.
While Cromartie admitted that he had some thoughts about playing receiver at the NFL level, he always desired to be a corner.
Regardless of what position he's playing, the Jets will look to continue utilizing him as much as they can this season.
"I'm just having fun with what's going on right now," he said. "I'm enjoying it. Enjoying every single bit of every single day with my teammates and things like that. I'm just having fun."