For New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, it’s personal.
Cromartie knows that he was not the team’s first choice among free agent cornerbacks this past offseason.
The Jets flirted with All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha for a little while before he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cromartie saw many cornerbacks find new homes before he eventually re-signed with the Jets, yet the 27-year-old feels that he’s a true playmaker and that he can play with the best of them.
After his incredible performance in the Jets’ Week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cromartie is on his way to proving his doubters wrong.
Cromartie was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his all-around performance, which included two interceptions, two pass breakups, zero completions allowed, and three tackles.
His second interception was a backbreaker for the Jaguars, a game-changing play that saw Cromartie nearly return it for a touchdown inside the 1-yard line.
In addition to his defensive efforts, Cromartie returned two kickoff returns for an average of 46 yards and even carried the ball on offense for a gain of a yard.
Recently, he created a bit of a buzz when Cromartie suggested that he was a “better playmaker” than Asomugha, who shunned the Jets in free agency and led to Cromartie’s return to New York.
“My style of play and his style of play are totally different,” Cromartie said. “I feel I’m more of a playmaker than he is.”
Although it’s usually All-Pro Jets teammate Darrelle Revis who’s often talked about in the class of great cornerbacks with Asomugha, Cromartie believes he’s getting to that level himself.
“Here with the Jets, I feel like we have two No. 1 corners — 1A and 1B,” he said.
Asomugha has often been the type of player that opposing teams avoided throwing at, perhaps because of his own level of play but also the lack of quality pass defenders in the Oakland Raider secondary all those years.
With the Jets, teams are forced to choose between “1A and 1B” as Cromartie puts it, and that gives him the chance to make game-changing plays like he did last week.
Now, the Jets are headed to Oakland to face the very team that used to have Asomugha roaming their secondary—and pursued Cromartie in free agency this offseason.
“Oakland is an up-and-coming team and coach (Hue) Jackson is doing a great job,” Cromartie said. “They’re a team that, in the near future, is going to be a great team.”
However, the allure of a championship here in New York was enough for Cromartie to decide to return to the Jets on a long-term deal.
“For me, it was about being able to win now, having a chance to win the Super Bowl,” he said.
That’s every football players dream, naturally. For Cromartie, it means the opportunity to prove to the non-believers that he was the player the other 31 teams should’ve signed.
He knows that playing alongside Darrelle Revis, teams will come after him. But for Antonio Cromartie, all that means is more opportunities to make plays.