Antonio Cromartie: I must play better

Updated: October 18, 2013, 9:52 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Antonio Cromartie knows he hasn't had the best season of his career. And if the New York Jets cornerback were handing himself a grade after the first six games of the season?

"I'm honest, I give myself a C," he said after practice Thursday.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
Seth Wenig/AP PhotoEmmanuel Sanders beat Antonio Cromartie for a long touchdown in Sunday's 19-6 Steelers win.

But that's not how coach Rex Ryan sees it. Asked about Cromartie, who has struggled after being expected to take over leadership of the secondary in the wake of Darrelle Revis' departure, Ryan defended the corner.

"He's probably still had a Pro Bowl year," Ryan said. "I just think that sometimes, as much man [coverage] as we play and we give him the tough down, you know, down after down, sometimes you're going to get beat, and he's been beat on a couple of them."

Asked whether he has been a Pro Bowl-caliber player, Cromartie was firm.

"I don't think I am," Cromartie said. "That's from my standpoint. I think I can play a whole lot better."

Cromartie has given up three touchdowns this season. Two of those were in Tennessee, including a 77-yarder to Nate Washington, and the third was a 55-yard touchdown to Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders.

"One we just misplayed the football and ran into the ref," Ryan said. "And we got beat on a couple, but everybody gets beat, there's no question. I'm glad he's on our team, though. He takes a tough down and never flinches."

After being able to rely on Revis to cover the best wide receiver on opposing teams, the Jets have been working with new personnel this season. Rookie Dee Milliner was taken in the first round but was benched in Game 2 against the New England Patriots and has missed three games with a hamstring injury.

The rookie hopes he can play Sunday in the rematch against New England.

"Hopefully I can be out there," Milliner said.

Darrin Walls was picked over veteran Kyle Wilson to replace Milliner opposite Cromartie. Walls has been adequate, but the tandem isn't the security blanket that the Revis-Cromartie combination provided.

Cromartie said he hasn't been as aggressive off the line of scrimmage.

"I'm bigger than every receiver I'm facing up against, so that's something I have to go do. It's been a tough year for me," Cromartie said. "I don't consider this being me playing at a Pro Bowl caliber. I definitely want to pick my game up, and these guys understand that, also."

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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