Brooks: Jets’ D now ‘scary good’ with Cromartie

The Jets’ acquisition of former Pro Bowl CB Antonio Cromartie should make their top-ranked defense scary good in 2010.

The fifth-year pro from Florida State will team with Pro Bowl pick Darrelle Revis to form one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Although Cromartie’s play during the past two seasons has been far from stellar because of injuries and inconsistent concentration, he has flashed “lockdown” corner potential when he’s on his game.

At 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Cromartie is a freakish athlete with outstanding ball skills and instincts. He has the length to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he possesses the exceptional speed to run with swift pass catchers down the field. Given Cromartie’s impressive physical tools, the Jets undoubtedly will incorporate more “press” coverage into their game plan.

Talking with a few of the Jets’ coaches about Cromartie last weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine, they marveled at his extraordinary talent but wondered why the Chargers rarely allowed the former Pro Bowl pick to play bump-and-run at the line of scrimmage.

In the Jets coaches’ estimation, the Chargers’ scheme didn’t suit the strengths of Cromartie’s game, as they repeatedly had him positioned seven yards off the ball, forcing him to play from “off” coverage. Though Cromartie picked off 15 passes in four seasons in that scheme, his athleticism and ball skills gives him a chance to blossom into a superstar in Rex Ryan‘s system.

With teams growing wary of testing Revis through the air, Cromartie will have plenty of chances to prove that he’s the elite cover man the Jets envision. If he proves up to the challenge, New York’s impenetrable defense could reign supreme again in 2010.

Bucky Brooks

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