Antonio Cromartie knows how much pressure is on the New York Jets defensive backs. Rex Ryan‘s defense will have its fair share of changes this season, and Cromartie is now the undisputed leader of the secondary.
Cromartie’s ascent to team leader began last season, his third with the team. With Darrelle Revis out injured, it was Cromartie who led by example with career-best play, culminating in a trip to the Pro Bowl in January.
The Jets have a young, talented group of cornerbacks, as well as two new starting safeties. Now, as the longest-tenured member of the Jets secondary, it’s up to Cromartie to get the rest of the secondary up to speed.
Now 29-years-old and entering his eighth NFL season, Cromartie (#31, above) is up to the challenge of replacing Revis and leading by example. Nobody has loftier goals for the Jets’ secondary this season than Cromartie.
“We don’t want to give up a catch at all,” Cromartie told NewYorkJets.com. “When you have that mentality, it carries over … from OTAs into training camp. … When you’re not giving up any catches during practice, it makes things a little easier when you can go into the games, where you can go out and make those plays.”
With competition at nearly every position group on the field, Cromartie is one of the few players who could be considered a lock for his role. Yet Cromartie is approaching things like he’s one of the rookies he’s mentoring.
“I approach this offseason like I’m still trying to make the team,” Cromartie said. “I want to make sure I’m pushing myself and pushing others. We’re all competitive, so everything we do we’re always trying to compete.”
Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner, the Jets’ top pick, has not fully participated in practice yet due to offseason shoulder surgery, but Cromartie has been giving him advice. Mainly, the faster you learn the scheme, the better.
“If you learn your position, you can play a lot faster and now you can … learn everyone else’s position,” Cromartie said. “Now you know where you’re help is coming from. You understand the defense a lot more. “
Cromartie has come a long way over the course of his career, and in 2013, he finds himself the veteran cornerback who teammates young and old look to and learn from. He wouldn’t have it any other way.