The profane trash talk that Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie spewed toward Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of the big stories of the week in the NFL. But it won’t mean anything when the game starts, and Brady starts going after Cromartie as the weak link in the Jets’ secondary.
Cromartie’s weaknesses in coverage were a hot topic on NFL Matchup, the great Xs and Os show that ESPN unfortunately airs at an hour when most of America sleeps. It started with Merril Hoge showing the Colts’ only touchdown in last week’s loss to the Jets, a 57-yard pass from Peyton Manning to Pierre Garcon with Cromartie in coverage.
“Cromartie doesn’t play this right,” Hoge said. “Cromartie has to do a better job at the line of scrimmage by using his hands. He’s an amazing athlete, but fundamentally he is not very good. He doesn’t have the structure to be a consistently great cover guy. He has the skill set to be that but he is not fundamentally sound.”
Ron Jaworski and Sal Paolantonio both noted that when offenses need a big play against the Jets, they throw in Cromartie’s direction
“You’re watching offenses now target Cromartie,” Jaworski said, showing tape from the Patriots’ 45-3 win over the Jets. “Go back to that Monday night beatdown. In the first quarter, when it was still a ballgame, the Patriots got fourth-down-and-3. They decide to go for it. You know why? They like the matchup they’re going to get: They had Deion Branch matched against Antonio Cromartie.”
Hoge and Jaworski both said that Cromartie has great speed and athleticism, but not much else.
“The New England Patriots, what makes them so good?” Hoge said. “If Cromartie and them wanted to race, Cromartie would blow them away. But as far as separation and quickness, the Patriots are superior.”
Added Jaworski, “We all know he’s a great athlete, but he’s not physical.”
If Brady has a big game today throwing in Cromartie’s direction, we’ll hear plenty of talk that Brady was motivated by Cromartie’s trash talk. In reality, Brady is just looking for the weak link in the Jets’ secondary, and that’s Cromartie.