Monday, October 7, 2013
Julio Jones ready to face Jets' Cromartie
By Vaughn McClure
Julio Jones has drawn double coverage more often than not this season. Now the Atlanta Falcons receiver will face a player bold enough to play him straight up.
New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie might not have sidekick Darrelle Revis to work alongside anymore, but Cromartie is capable of being a top shutdown corner himself.
Jones realizes it.
"He’s a very athletic, long, rangy corner," Jones said of Cromartie. "And he’s got great speed."
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones could be shadowed by the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cromartie during Monday night’s Falcons-Jets matchup on ESPN. At least that’s what Jones saw Cromartie do during a preseason matchup with Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
"He matched Johnson the whole time, so it’s a possibility," Jones said. "But when you’ve got two great receivers on one team, it’s not telling who they’re going to match: me or Roddy (White)."
But White continues to recover from a high-ankle sprain, which has limited his effectiveness. Jones has dealt with a lingering knee issue that has caused him to miss some practice time. Regardless, Jones entered Week 5 with a NFL-leading 481 receiving yards on 33 receptions.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cromartie, who has 10 interceptions since joining the Jets in 2010, hasn’t missed a single game while with New York, and has been off the field for a total of 37 opponent dropbacks during the past three seasons. During that time, the Jets have the lowest opponent QBR (42.1) on throws outside the painted numbers, and are one of 2 teams who have allowed a completion percentage less than 50 percent on those throws (Jets, 48.0 percent, and Houston, 49.3 percent).
Cromartie has a team-high 14 combined interceptions and pass breakups on those throws during the past three seasons, tied for 18th most in the league. He talked about the key to slowing down a big receiver such as Jones, who does much of his work outside the numbers.
"It’s trying to be as physical as possible," Cromartie said. "I think the bigger receivers, you want to take them out (the game) so you want to be as physical as possible. You try to take them out [of] the game early. You have to understand that there will be catches that will be made here and there. If you’re not letting up big plays, you’re doing your job."
Jones had an 81-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2. He also made a leaping, 49-yard yard catch in double coverage during a loss to the New England Patriots. Yet the vertical game between quarterback Matt Ryan and Jones has been missing for most of the season.
Ryan has gotten the ball out quickly to compensate for protection issues. He might have to continue the trend against a potent Jets front seven.
Whatever the case, Ryan can rely on Jones to have some sort of impact, even if matched against Cromartie. Jones has three consecutive 100-yard receiving outings despite drawing added attention. And if the Jets do commit two guys to him, it will give the other Falcons receivers a chance to win their one-on-one matchups.