A big hand for Antonio Cromartie, his hands all over Reggie Wayne regardless.
Following the injury abdications of not only Darrelle Revis but also Santonio Holmes, Cromartie has described himself as the best standing cornerback in the NFL and standing wide receiver on the Jets, too. No reason to suspend any belief now, including his own last Sunday that the officials had his two nullified (by interference penalties) interception-return touchdowns all wrong.
"Some of those calls shouldn't have been called," Cromartie says, "But I have to go back and clean it up."
He already has his language. Again Wednesday he refused a reporter's offer to send another message to Tom Brady, who was called an unflattering body part by the Jets' cornerback before their 2010 playoff win at Foxboro.
"I want to do my job and my job only," Cromartie said. "Trying to show leadership, I guess,"
As Cro flies, this is awfully high-minded of him. Responsibility knocks and nobody reasonably can knock the job Cromartie has done since Revis went down in Week 3 at Miami.
Andre Johnson had but one reception and only two of Wayne's five were on Cromartie. This is grabbing the bull by the horns, no illegal-use-of-the-hands penalty for that. Despite all the miserable things that have been said about the Jets, frankly some of them worse than what Cromartie called Brady, they are going to New England on Sunday in a four-way tie for the AFC East lead.
They have been as up-and-down through six games as Cromartie was for his first two Jets seasons in the role of the guy on the other side from Revis. But Good Cro seems to have Bad Cro blanketed, which is where all comparisons of the pre- and post-Revis 2012 Jets must start, but of course cannot end.
No man being an island — and only one man having his own island — the next test, Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, is the pass/fail for the Jets still having a defense that can be considered dangerous again come December and January.
They don't have to win Sunday — what is the tiebreaker if the entire NFL finishes 8-8? — but they can't be exposed at Gillette Stadium as impersonators of their old selves. This means the Jets have to run the ball against a strong-as-usual Patriots box and throw the ball against a weak-as-usual Pats secondary and get the game into the twenties where the defense can make a play to win it.
To do that, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, safeties brought in during the offseason as barricades against bulldozing tight ends, can't be left sprawled in Gronkowski's wake, Kyle Wilson has to continue to show competence as Cromartie's replacement on Revis' opposite side, and a beleaguered defensive front that suddenly stopped the run against the young and beat-up Colts must to do it again against a real team.
"Last week was a steppingstone for us," said Cromartie. "We have to keep moving forward and playing like that.
"It's another game, a big game, a division game for us, but it's football. We still have to keep everything the same."
Same old Patriots. Even if Brady isn't such a bad guy after all, he still is, according to Cromartie, "top two with Peyton Manning" among NFL quarterbacks. Welker remains Welker, which means Cro is likely to take over that watch from Revis.
Welker has the quick shifts, Cromartie more the long strides for staying step by step with burners along the sideline. But logically the best cover guy gets the best receiver until he proves he can't handle it.
Landry almost surely will cover Gronkowski, and, one supposes Bell will be against Aaron Hernandez, back to full duty just in time for the Jets. Name your poison, but Cromartie isn't swallowing any Kool-Aid.
"We have two physical guys who can cover tight ends," he said. "They are better at doing that than anybody we had last year, which is why they're here.
"One of the things that beat us last year is that we were never on the same page, even with having Darrelle. We never communicated the right way. I think we're doing a better job this year.
"Having veteran guys — Bell and Landry and [holdover] Eric Smith, too — makes things simple. There is a bigger trust in our group to understand another guy is going to be there if somebody makes a mistake.
"You can play a lot faster not wondering if this guy or that guy is going to be there. We can play at a faster pace now, a faster level."
The Patriots are using a lot of no-huddle, which will even further quicken a pace that Cromartie says you can't feel from the film or simulate in practice. Substitutions will be compromised, and, one would guess, so might be Cro's contributions returning kicks and trying to give the Jets' a deep pass-catching threat once or twice a game. He said he was a tired guy last week and will be again.
Then, too, the Pats are not only running the ball more than before, but, one would presume, much better than the Colts. The Jets, compromised as they are by Revis' absence, still have the better secondary, though. And they will need it.
Brady, said Cromartie, "is a competitor, he hates to lose. I hate to lose, too.
"We got swept by them last year, got whopped [at MetLife Stadium] and couldn't do much more than sit there and take it. We take that to heart and this is the first game this year against them.
"This is New England, the new America's Team. Why are they the new America's Team? Can't say they're not. Everybody talks about New England all the time because they are always in the playoffs."
The Jets, having their share of days against the Patriots while they have been winning division titles and going to Super Bowls under Belichick, have gotten in the habit of being the Pats' foils. They don't want to become their patsies. Antonio Cromartie is taking personal responsibility.
"You do some trash-talking on the field, but my biggest thing is making sure that I do what I am supposed to do and the young guys do what they are supposed to do," he said. "Take care of business the best way we know how."
Eleven returning Jets offensive and defensive starters remaining from the 2010 team, including Cromartie, know how to play New England. Sunday likely will tell us if they can still do it.