Return game deeper with Cromartie

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
7:15
PM ET
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals had one primary option to return kicks -- Javier Arenas -- and a few able-bodied back-ups.

Cromartie
Together, Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Ellington and Patrick Peterson combined for 47 yards to complement Arenas' 493. As a group, they totaled 540 yards -- or 55 fewer than the man responsible for returning kicks for the Cardinals in 2014.

The addition of Ted Ginn gave the Cardinals a better return man who’s more dynamic and has a longer history of better decisions than Arenas. Ginn also gave Arizona coach Bruce Arians a reliable option at punt returner if he ever wanted to rest Peterson. Last season with Carolina, Ginn had 316 punt return yards -- compared to just 198 for Peterson.

While Ginn will be the primary returner, Arizona’s back-up squad got a little deeper with the addition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie. In his eight-year career, Cromartie has returned 45 kicks for 1,059 yards -- including six for 164 yards last season with the New York Jets. His career high is 17 for 417 yards in 2011.

It’s likely that Cromartie will be the Ginn’s primary back on kick returns because Mathieu, Ellington and Peterson have a combined four career returns. And it doesn’t hurt the Cromartie’s average kick return is 23.53 yards, about a quarter yard longer than Ginn’s. But only Ginn (3) has returned a kickoff for a touchdown from the group.

When it comes to punt returns, Cromartie has seven under his belt for a total of 40 yards compared to Ginn’s 156 for 1,741 yards and Peterson’s 128 for 1,323 yards.

But having another option with Cromartie gives a little peace of mind to the Cardinals’ coaching staff.

“The good news is we have multiple options now,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim said. “Obviously, Patrick has had the return stuff in the past. Tyrann is coming off the injury from being in the return game. I think Ted Ginn is a guy who really gives us flexibility in the type of returner that he has become.

“But I don’t think you can ever have enough upper-echelon athletes who can be difference makers in the return game. Obviously now having Pat, Tyrann, Antonio and Ted Ginn, I think it’s a huge plus for us.”

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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