A key driver of optimism heading into the upcoming season is the revamped secondary. Darrelle Revis headlines the improvement there, and the Jets have also looked to upgrade the other starting outside spot in bringing in Antonio Cromartie, with Buster Skrine likely manning slot.
A recurring storyline through training camp, though, has been the success Jets' receivers have had in practice when marked by Cromartie. Of course, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are a handful on the outside for any corner, and the positive news about their playmaking is a welcome break from the mediocre wideout production this team has received in recent years. However, with one unit is doing particularly well in training camp there is always the fear of it being driven by poor play on the other side. Especially in the case of the veteran Cromartie, always seen to be an inconsistent if talented corner relying on his now declining athleticism, who has sandwiched impressive years in 2014 and 2012 with a mediocre 2013.
Cromartie isn't too concerned about his early struggles though, saying to reporters yesterday that he's primarily using these training camp reps for mental work. He said "it's practice", but didn't use that simply dismiss his struggles, rather expanding on the statement by explaining that he's not covering receivers as he would in games; he is picking on specific components of his technique to work on each day. It would make sense for a veteran like Cromartie who is already familiar with the Bowles system and his secondary partner in Revis to not need the reps so much for gaining confidence, but rather looking towards marginal improvements in his cover ability.
The regular season will tell the real story, but for now there might well be reason to view Cromartie's coverage breakdowns in camp with a pinch of salt. The coaching staff certainly appears to agree. Defensive back coach Joe Danna has been quick to praise Cromartie's presence and leadership in camp, and appears confident that Cromartie will be an asset on the field as well. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers mentioned that he expects Cromartie to get better as camp progresses like he has done in his career, and Todd Bowles noted some technical errors the veteran corner has made but simply said "He'll be fine".
Playing opposite Revis likely means Cromartie will see a fair few passes come his way, so certainly the Jets need him to be better when the games count. Especially since the depth at outside corner isn't great behind him, even if Dee Milliner was healthy. The hope would be that out of the group featuring Milliner, Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams and Dexter McDougle, the Jets could find a corner to push Cromartie this year and perhaps slide into the starting spot as early as 2016. It is no certainty though, so the hope will be for the veteran Cromartie to have at least one good season left in him to justify the $7 million investment.