Most teams consider their quarterback or another offensive skill position player to be the most irreplaceable piece of their roster. For the New York Jets, it would be hard to argue for anyone on the offensive side of the football not being replaceable, so turning to the defensive side of the ball seems mandatory. Even though they traded away the one irreplaceable player in Darrelle Revis this offsesaon, the team still has a piece on defense that is nearly as valuable to their squad.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie will see an even more expansive role as the club’s top cover guy in the upcoming season due to Revis’ departure. Combine that with the fact that head coach Rex Ryan has already been quite critical of first round pick Dee Milliner and you have a secondary that is completely reliant on Cromartie’s abilities. Kyle Wilson will prove to be valuable as a third corner this season, but there’s no argument for anyone other than Cromartie being the benchmark for the secondary.
Even though he had a Pro Bowl caliber season last year, the former member of the San Diego Chargers has to continue to uphold that standard in the 2013 season. At 29 years of age, the former first rounder has come into his own in recent years with last season being his true coming out party in Revis’ absence. Cromartie shines when put in man to man coverage, and this season will feature plenty of that for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner.
According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics for evaluating corners, Cromartie ranked 6th best in the NFL among all corners in yards per pass at 5.7 on average. He saw 84 passes thrown in his direction but only allowed 33 catches during the season. His play over the past three seasons has been outstanding in New York, and it could be argued that if he didn’t have such a checkered past – a.k.a. eight kids to seven women outside of his now nuclear family – he would have just as big of a profile as Revis did during his success in the Big Apple.
What can’t be argued is Cromartie’s importance to Ryan’s defense with the Jets in the upcoming season. Given the criticism that the first rounder Milliner has received already, it is easy to see why Cromartie deserves to be tabbed as irreplaceable in 2013.