- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Antonio Cromartie, who is now the Jets' de facto No. 1 cornerback, will have a whole new slate of receivers to match up against this year. Usually, handling the opposition’s top wide receiver would fall to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Instead, Cromartie finds himself watching tape of Revis handing players like Houston’s Andre Johnson as he prepares this week.
“He’s one of the best receivers in the game,” Cromartie said of Johnson. “Throughout his whole 10-year career, I think he’s averaged 90, 91, 92 yards a game, every single game. He’s a big, physical receiver that can get in and out of his breaks ... He knows how to use his body very well. The biggest thing for me is just going in and playing my game, trying to be physical and just do the things I need to do.”
Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Cromartie will face a challenge when the Jets take on the Texans Monday night, especially after a 34-0 shellacking by the 49ers last week.
“I think it is a real big week for (Cromartie) because we’re going to ask a lot,” Pettine said. “We’re going to play our style of defense and there are going to be times against a team like this that runs the ball that well, (when) we’re going to have to be in some single-high defenses with eight players down around the box, so he’s going to have a decent amount of one-on-ones. It’s a big challenge and I know he’s up to it.”
Kyle Wilson will start opposite Cromartie for the second straight week. Some watched Wilson struggle in the role last week even as he celebrated a few plays.
“(Wilson is) not Darrelle, so we’re not going to hold him to that standard,” Pettine said. “Did he grade out pretty well? He did. I think one of the issues that came up was, we were forced to put him in some one-on-one situations because of how we were playing up front. Normally we could play some coverage calls to help the corners out, this goes for any game. When you’re not playing well up front, and you have to 'load the box,' to use a cliché, (to) stop the run. That puts a lot of pressure on your corners. It’s not as easy just to point it out and say they were missed opportunities. Those opportunities were created in large part because of what we felt we had to do to stop the run.”
For Cromartie, the challenge presens an opportunity to step out of Revis’ shadow. Jets coach Rex Ryan has often said Cromartie is a No. 1 receiver in his own right. Cromartie said he loves the opportunity to face a big-game player.
“Yeah, I love them,” Cromartie said. “Playing against bigger receivers, it matches up very well for me. I can use my length and things like that. I’m really looking forward to it. This is my third time playing the Texans in my career and I’ve never faced up against Andre. This is my first time facing him, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
And Cromartie said he wants the Texans to run it.
“You have to try and make sure they throw the ball more so than run the ball,” Cromartie said. “They do a great job running the ball. They have two backs, good backs with (Adrian) Foster and (Ben) Tate. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we make the tackle, make sure the first guy is there and the second guy is there to make the tackle and trusting the guys that we’re going to be there.”