Chill out, 'Cro.
That's the message Rex Ryan sent to veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Friday.
Ryan's concerned that Cromartie may be too hyped up for Sunday's home game against San Diego, his ex-team.
"You've just got to slow your role a little bit this game, because I think you do get excited," Ryan said in discussing Cromartie.
But it isn't just this Sunday. The coach has seen Cromartie get too wired up in the past as well.
New York Jets
"Sometimes at that spot, you just need to relax, because he knows how to do it," Ryan said.
Cromartie has three interceptions, matching Darrelle Revis for the team lead, but he also has allowed all three touchdown passes against the Jets and has committed a team-high five penalties.
On Thursday, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Cromartie's inconsistent play has been vexing to the Jets staff. He admitted that coaches tailor defensive play calls to help Cromartie when he struggles.
"It's frustrating, but I think we also have to have the ability as a staff not to just rely on him so much that the plans are built around him. That if he's not playing well, we're not going to play well," he said. "We've learned that you almost have to have some calls in mind where if things aren't going well on his side of the field, we need to protect him a little bit more."
After an up-and-down performance in Week 1 against Dallas, Cromartie came up big in Week 2, intercepting two passes in the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The following week, he struggled in a loss to the Oakland Raiders, committing four penalties for 46 yards and fumbling a kickoff return. He was burned for a touchdown after losing his footing on Monday night against Miami.
Cromartie was asked on Friday if the label "inconsistent" was an unfair way to describe his play.
"No," he said. "I can say myself, the first couple of weeks, if you go from Week 1 to Week 2 you’d see a totally different person. Week 3, we went to Oakland, I felt like we had a couple bad calls but the calls were made and that’s all you can go by."
Cromartie reiterated on Friday that he is looking forward to facing the Chargers, who feature a pair of 6-5 receivers in Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.
"They’re big guys, fast guys and they try to be physical," Cromartie said.
To be successful, Jets defensive backs need to match that physical play, bumping Floyd and Jackson at the line to knock them off of their routes.
So the 6-2 Cromartie will be counted on to produce. Ryan is confident he can come through.
"We are very fortunate that he's on our team," Ryan said. ".... I'll take our two corners over anybody's in the league."
Information from ESPNNewYork's Rich Cimini was used in this post