Antonio Cromartie: The Numbers, The Tape, The Verdict

Did Antonio Cromartie come out of Darrelle Revis’ shadow last season?

With the regular season being dominated by the hype machine that is Richard Sherman and the off-season dominated by the drama machine that is Darrelle Revis, it’s easy to forget about the New York Jets(yeah, that felt as weird writing as it did reading) and where they go from here. The Jets drafted one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft this year, Dee Milliner, but Milliner isn’t even a guaranteed starter at this point, never mind a Revis replacement.

Instead, the responsibility of replacing Revis will fall on seasoned-veteran Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie is a 29-year-old cornerback who has accrued seven seasons of football for his career so far. After an up-and-down few years with the Chargers, the Jets acquired him in a trade during the 2010 off-season.

During his first two seasons with the Jets, Cromartie appeared to play with more consistency across from Revis. With Revis following the opposition’s top cornerbacks on a regular basis, Cromartie was able to take on lesser assignments with more help. He never reached the peaks of his career, the 2007 season in San Diego when he had 10 interceptions, but his all-around game was beginning to flourish at a point when many thought it wouldn’t.

Up until this past year, Cromartie was happy to play second fiddle to Revis and accepted the benefits of playing that role gleefully. However, once Revis tore his ACL, his brash confidence made itself known. Cromartie took it upon himself to lead by example and took over Revis’ role as the top cornerback both on and off the field.

There is no doubt that he faced tougher challenges and even though the perception of his play was that of an improved player, to really understand how Cromartie handled the Revis role we must dive into the extensive film that is available from the 2012 season.

Explaining the Process

Qualifying Plays:
Plays that count:

  • Every snap that has the cornerback in man coverage no matter where the ball is thrown.
  • The above includes sacks, quarterback scrambles and plays where the defensive back has safety help.

Plays that don’t count:

  • Screen plays. Even if the receiver isn’t part of the screen, these plays do not count.
  • Plays where either the receiver or cornerback doesn’t follow through his whole assignment.
  • Zone plays. Any ambiguity in this area will disqualify a play.
  • Any prevent coverage situations.
  • Receptions in the flat without a route run.
  • Running plays(duh!). Including designed quarterback runs.

Failed Coverages:

The ball does not have to be thrown in the defensive back’s direction for the coverage to fail. This is NOT an alysis of how many completions the cornerback allowed, that can be found elsewhere, this is an analysis of how good his coverage is on any given play.

Failed coverages can come at any point of the route, but it is subjective to where the players are on the field in relation to the quarterback. Typically, defensive backs must be within arms reach for underneath/intermediate routes. On deeper passes, there is greater leeway given to the defender.

Failed coverages can be subjective. They must be determined by the situation considering the length of the play and other such variables.

Shut Down:

This category is reserved for those plays when receivers would have to make superhuman catches to beat the coverage. The best example of this is when receivers line up wide and try to run down the sideline, but the defensive back gradually guides them towards the sideline, suffocating the space they have to catch the football in. If a receiver is on the white sideline, he is shut down.

In Position:

This is the opposite of a failed coverage. In order to be ‘In Position’, a defensive back has to be in a position to prevent a relatively well-thrown pass to his assignment.

 

He just keeps turning up…

Wide Receiver Success-Individual Matchups

No.

Player

Successful Snaps/Coverage Snaps

Percentage

1

Stevie Johnson

5/10

50%

2

Kevin Walter

2/4

50%

3

Reggie Wayne

9/20

45%

4

Chris Givens

3/7

43%

5

Kenny Britt

4/11

36.4%

6

Mike Wallace

6/17

35.3%

7

Justin Blackmon

6/18

33%

8

Larry Fitzgerald

5/15

33%

9

Sidney Rice

2/6

33%

10

Brandon Lloyd

10/33

30.3%

11

Danario Alexander

4/14

28.6%

12

Donald Jones

3/11

27.3%

13

Brandon Gibson

3/12

25%

14

Brian Hartline

9/37

24.3%

15

Mario Manningham

1/5

20%

16

Donnie Avery

1/5

20%

17

Andre Johnson

2/13

15.4%

18

Michael Crabtree

1/9

11%

19

Julian Edelman

0/4

0%

20

David Nelson

0/4

0%

21

Golden Tate

0/7

0%

Totals

76 / 262

Averages

3.619 / 12.476

29%

*Those with less than four snaps against Cromartie were not included.

Weekly Breakdown

Week 1: Buffalo Bills
Total qualifying plays: 14
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 2
In Position: 10

In their first matchup of the season, Cromartie stayed primarily on the left side of the field, but did at times venture into the slot and to the right-side. He wasn’t following anyone in particular, but he was forced to move because Darrelle Revis was following Stevie Johnson throughout the game.

He had an interception in zone coverage and allowed Donald Jones free underneath when he went over a teammate instead of going underneath with the receiver. Jones only beat him twice, but he had a chance at a big play down-the-field if Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn’t overthrown him.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 18.16.03

On first and 10, the Bills come out with a receiver to each side and two tight ends to the right of the formation. The Jets respond by moving a linebacker into the slot and pushing Kyle Wilson into a position more natural of a linebacker at the line of scrimmage. With Wilson obviously overmatched against any potential run, the Jets also have a safety dropping into the area behind him, while the coverage underneath is man.

Cromartie is lined up to the bottom of the screen against Donald Jones. Jones is a fast receiver, but Cromartie should be able to keep up with him despite being in press coverage without safety help deep.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 18.17.01

It may have been irrelevant depending on his assignment, but run play-action that brings the safety to Cromartie’s side of the field forward slightly. This creates huge space behind Cromartie where Jones is running into along the sideline. Because Jones is tight to the sideline, the safety to the other side of the field has a huge amount of ground to cover if he is to even be in position to make a recovery tackle.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 18.17.36

Jones makes out to run a comeback, which Cromartie is in perfect position to cover. When Jones motions to the sideline, Cromartie plants his foot to move with him back towards the line of scrimmage. However, from his position, Jones is able to plant his foot to go back upfield and attack the space in behind Cromartie, whereas the cornerback’s feet are caught up so he has to reshuffle them.

This moment of readjustment concedes enough space to Jones for him to get free down the sideline.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 18.18.09

Between Cromartie’s speed and the incoming safety, the Jets’ defensive backs would likely have prevented any touchdown if the pass had been completed, but neither player could have stopped Jones from catching the ball if he had been given the opportunity. The only reason this wasn’t a big play is because this play is a great example of how Ryan Fitzpatrick’s deep accuracy is consistently terrible.

Week 2: Pittsburgh Steelers
Total qualifying plays: 19
Failed coverages: 7
Shutdowns: 3
In Position: 9

Being kind, Cromartie’s performance against the Steelers was inconsistent. Being cynical, it was problematic.

In the third quarter, Mike Wallace scored a 37-yard touchdown against Cromartie. It’s not shameful at all to be beaten by Wallace on a deep ball. His speed is simply phenomenal and he has scored many, many touchdowns on many of the better cornerbacks in the NFL from similarly large distances out. However, few came so easily…

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.10.36

Cromartie is a fast player. He’s not so old that he has lost any of his speed and he should be happy to take on assignments against quicker receivers. His ego may have taken a hit when he was lining up 10 yards off of Wallace before the snap, but it would prove to be a necessary cushion.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.10.53

The biggest issue with this play is that Wallace doesn’t win with his speed. Obviously the whole play is set up because of his speed when Cromartie lines up so far off of him, but as he runs his route the cornerback is in perfect position to prevent a reception down the field.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.18.48

The mistake that Cromartie makes is that he never turns around to find the football. Despite being so far down the field with the sideline as his aid, he doesn’t turn around at all until Wallace begins to slow down. As such, Wallace is already working position for the ball while Cromartie’s momentum takes him completely out of the play.

It’s no use keeping up with Wallace if you’re going to concede such an easy touchdown reception.

Week 3: Miami Dolphin
Total qualifying plays: 26
Failed coverages: 7
Shutdowns: 5
In Position: 14

Against the Dolphins, Cromartie had some problems with Brian Hartline’s quickness underneath, but did show off his ability to turn and play the football down the field when dealing with slower receivers.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.25.33

Cromartie and Hartline are paired off in press coverage at the bottom of the screen. There is a single high safety playing center field who is out of shot.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.25.51

Having shadowed him down the sideline, Cromartie is in a good position to play the football, but Hartline has reacted to the pass much quicker than him. Hartline is already reaching into the air and leaving his feet for the football as Cromartie’s hips are still facing his own goalline. With one quick motion, Cromartie punches the football away with one fully extended arm to prevent the reception.

As well as his ball-skills, the play also had one standout play similar to the one from the game against the Buffalo Bills. Except this time, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s deep ball wouldn’t bail Cromartie out.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.38.36

Hartline ran essentially the same route that Donald Jones ran, even throwing a very similar fake at roughly the same spot in his route. Cromartie bought the fake too easily, allowing Hartline to run free down the right sideline.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 21.39.44

When we zoom in on the fake, it’s clear that Cromartie is fooled to the point that he is out of position, but the real question is why? Cromartie has the speed to break on the ball ahead of Hartline from a level position, he doesn’t need to throw his whole momentum forward in order to get ahead of him. At least, that is what you would think.

Cromartie is very fast in terms of straight-line speed, but straight line speed isn’t as valuable as some may suspect for cornerbacks. Obviously it is important for handling deep routes and running with receivers, but being agile and explosive in tight is just as important. Cromartie isn’t very quick, it’s something that will be diagrammed later in this piece, so he has to overcompensate in this situation to make sure that he can play the underneath or intermediate routes.

Week 4: San Francisco 49ers
Total qualifying plays: 15
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 3
In Position: 9

Cromartie covered a variety of different receivers, giving up two curl routes and one in route for the whole game.

Week 5: Houston Texans
Total qualifying plays: 18
Failed coverages: 5
Shutdowns: 1
In Position: 12

Cromartie built his reputation on coming up with turnovers. He announced himself on the NFL stage with 10 interceptions during the 2007 season and even though he hasn’t reached those lofty heights since, he does show off the skills that allowed him to create those turnovers every so often.

Against the Houston Texans, he did just that.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 22.03.26

Matt Schaub forced a pass over the middle to Andre Johnson when Johnson was well covered by Cromartie. Even though Cromartie was covering Johnson well, with safety help over the top, he still showed excellent ball-skills and recognition ability to meet the ball at it’s highest point and catch it in a position where Johnson couldn’t affect him.

Week 6: Indianapolis Colts
Total qualifying plays: 26
Failed coverages: 9
Shutdowns: 2
In Position: 15

Cromartie had a really bad game against the Colts. He did have another interception, when the ball tipped off of Reggie Wayne’s hands and into his own, but he also interfered with receivers three times and was spared big plays against him because of opportunities that Andrew Luck didn’t see. One of those opportunities was another double move from Reggie Wayne, a double move that put him wide open in the endzone.

Week 7: New England Patriots
Total qualifying plays: 25
Failed coverages: 7
Shutdowns: 2
In Position: 16

Cromartie spent most of his day on Brandon Lloyd, but also had a handful of snaps against Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Lloyd and Branch were the only receivers to get free of him at any point.

This game showed off the stark contrast between having a healthy Darrelle Revis and asking Antonio Cromartie to do his best impression of a healthy Darrelle Revis. When the Patriots and Jets played the year before, Revis trailed Wes Welker all over the field. The Jets wouldn’t dream of asking Cromartie to do that, because Welker’s strengths, lateral agility and quickness, would allow him to expose Cromartie’s greatest weaknesses.

Week 8: Miami Dolphins
Total qualifying plays: 14
Failed coverages: 2
Shutdowns: 1
In Position: 11

Hartline really doesn’t offer the more physically gifted cornerbacks in the NFL any problems on a consistent basis. Therefore, because Cromartie followed him for all but one of his qualifying snaps, he had a very, very easy day out.

Week 10: Seattle Seahawks
Total qualifying plays: 16
Failed coverages: 3
Shutdowns: 0
In Position: 13

Another game when Cromartie split time between multiple receivers, but he was able to blank Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin while doing that. It was Sidney Rice and an old teammate who were able to beat him though and they both beat him for potential big plays.

Rice sold a flea-flicker seam route very well, before sprinting away from Cromartie down the middle of the field. Rice would have had a touchdown, but Russell Wilson’s pass was severely underthrown. That forced the receiver to wait for the football while Cromartie was actually in a better position when Wilson let the ball go.

Edwards beat Cromartie on his final snap in man coverage of the game. Edwards shifted away from him early on in the route, before sprinting free down the sideline. However, Wilson didn’t see him as he checked down to Zach Miller instead.

Week 11: St. Louis Rams
Total qualifying plays: 23
Failed coverages: 9
Shutdowns: 1
In Position: 13

Austin Pettis beat him once on a crossing route when he appeared to be playing the wrong coverage, while Chris Givens’ quickness gave him issues on three other occasions. However, his most notable foe was Brandon Gibson. Gibson beat him three times, with two of those being curl routes when he turned too quick for Cromartie, but the most significant play was a touchdown reception that he gave up on a post route.

Gibson and Cromartie were lined up together on the inside of the formation at the goalline. Gibson hesitated at the line before breaking outside on a post route. Cromartie was in position to prevent the reception, but looked to try and play the ball in the air before it came to the receiver. That is the danger in trying to high-point the football, when Cromartie did and missed it, the receiver had a simple, uncontested reception.

Week 12: New England Patriots
Total qualifying plays: 17
Failed coverages: 4
Shutdowns: 0
In Position: 13

He played well for the most part, but while he was almost always in position, his coverage was very passive as he didn’t look 100 percent focused. Cromartie isn’t an overly intense or physical cornerback on a normal day, but this performance looked particularly relaxed.

Week 13: Arizona Cardinals
Total qualifying plays: 18
Failed coverages: 5
Shutdowns: 3
In Position: 10

From a sheer physical standpoint, Larry Fitzgerald’s matchup with Cromartie should fall in the Cardinals’ receiver’s favour. However, with diminished quarterback play from Ryan Lindley, Fitzgerald had very few opportunities to overpower Cromartie, while he didn’t lose him with his route-running as often as he would hope to.

Week 14: Jacksonville Jaguars
Total qualifying plays: 22
Failed coverages: 6
Shutdowns: 2
In Position: 14

Justin Blackmon was no longer really a rookie when the duo faced off in Week 14. Blackmon was running a variety of routes and was polished in almost everything he did. He beat Cromartie on six occasions with five different types of routes, two outs, a sideline route, a post, a curl and one in route. Despite his success, Blackmon was never able to make any real impact plays down the field against Cromartie.

Week 15: Tennessee Titans
Total qualifying plays: 16
Failed coverages: 7
Shutdowns: 0
In Position: 9

This may have been Cromartie’s worst game of the season. He was repeatedly beaten by deep curls from different receivers and he was never able to adjust to stop them. Of Cromartie’s seven failed coverages, five were curls or comebacks, while the other two were deep routes on a post and sideline route.

Kenny Britt was his primarily responsibility throughout the game, but Kendall Wright and Nate Washington also occupied his attention on more than one occasion each.

Week 16: San Diego Chargers
Total qualifying plays: 14
Failed coverages: 4
Shutdowns: 0
In Position: 10

If Cromartie could cover one receiver every week of the season, it would likely be Danario Alexander. Alexander got the better of him on a handful of occasions, but for the most part, Cromartie was able to comfortably contain him. The one big play from this game that will haunt him was a touchdown for Alexander when Cromartie completely lost his bearings.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 22.57.22

This play will end with an uncontested reception in the endzone that comes after a simple sideline route from Alexander. From this position with safety help over the top, there is absolutely no reason for Cromartie to give up an easy reception in the endzone against a simple route.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 22.57.33

Because Alexander crosses out from the slot, Cromartie doesn’t immediately lock onto him and is distracted by the players inside of him. In order to recover from this, Cromartie tries to establish position in front of Alexander to take him out of his stride. He ultimately only succeeds in taking himself out of the play and knocking himself off balance.

Even though he eventually recovers into a position where he can perfectly play the route, he has no idea where the football is and breaks back infield when Alexander is still continuing down the sideline into the endzone.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 22.59.44

All that means that Alexander is able to wait for the football and easily catch it into his stomach instead of having to get over Cromartie to locate it with his hands.

Week 17: Buffalo Bills
Total qualifying plays: 15
Failed coverages: 10
Shutdowns: 1
In Position: 4

The Stevie Johnson test has become infamous on the PSR blog during these cornerback breakdowns. He has proved to be a disaster for almost every defensive back because of his exceptionally precise feet and his unorthodox approach to running routes. Johnson is a nightmare matchup for Cromartie and it showed on the field during their final game of the 2012 Regular Season.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 23.19.34

In an ideal world, Cromartie will never play in the slot. He is able to, as he showed throughout this game handling deeper routes, but against shorter routes he is too much of a liability situationally. Here he is in the slot across from Johnson. The Jets are playing man coverage and Cromartie won’t have safety help underneath or linebacker help inside.

Johnson will have a two-way go(he can attack infield or towards the sideline).

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 23.28.46

Johnson takes advantage of his two-way go and even though most cornerbacks are beaten by his quick step, it’s still very humiliating when a receiver can gain this much separation so quickly in such a short area. Johnson does it by hesitating initially, allowing those around them to clear the area and forcing Cromartie to hold his nerve, before planting hard on his inside step before pushing off into the flat.

Cromartie’s feet are the biggest issue. In the second section of the above image, Cromartie’s weight is carrying him infield, while Johnson is already pushing out into the flat. Had Cromartie been on his toes with the foot-speed to shuffle his feet into an alignment better suited to turn outside, he would have had a better chance of sticking with the receiver. Instead, he is carried towards the quarterback, while Johnson is wide open for the easy reception.

This wasn’t an isolated incident either. Earlier in the same quarter Johnson used the same step, but inverted in the other direction, for a big gain over midfield, while Danny Amendola did something similar very early on in their game against the Rams.

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 23.43.57

Needless to say, the Jets immediately took him out of those situations.

2012 NFL Season Total:
Total qualifying plays: 298
Failed coverages: 90
Shutdowns: 26
In Position: 182
Success rate for the season: 69.8%

In Slot:
Total qualifying plays: 36
Failed coverages: 12
Success rate: 66.6%

 Left cornerback:
Total qualifying plays:161
Failed coverages: 47
Success rate: 70.8%

 Right cornerback:
Total qualifying plays: 101
Failed coverages: 31
Success rate: 69.3%

Success Rates v Specific Routes
1.Seam 81%
2.Flat 75%
3.Post 72%

4.Crossing 69%
5.Out 65%
6.Curl 63%
7.Double Move 62%

8.Slant 60%

9.In 50%

Cromartie should be hoping for better results next season.

Verdict

Antonio Cromartie did an admirable job filling in for Darrelle Revis last year. Was his coverage good enough to rank him amongst the elite players at his position? Probably not. Would he have been better if the Jets were more competitive? Probably.

Cromartie isn’t Stephon Gilmore or Richard Sherman, he won’t go hard and be fully focused on every play. In fact, there were a large number of plays during the season when he appeared to just dive on the ground instead of trying to make a tackle on a receiver. It’s not like he can’t tackle, because he also showed off some outstanding tackling technique and huge hits at different stages of the season. His problem is more about his willingness to tackle and his focus on the game.

Had the Jets been more competitive, he may have been more willing to throw his shoulder into tackles and dive head first at receivers’ feet rather than straight into the ground. It’s not just his tackling, there were a handful of occasions during the season when Cromartie was playing the wrong coverage in comparison to his teammates or he went wandering out of sync with the rest of the coverage when playing zone. These may just be staples of his play, but they could also be about his mentality and approach during a season when his team endured disappointment after disappointment.

Cromartie played 1,054 snaps with 557 of them being plays when he was in coverage. That sample should be large enough for him to be considered a legitimate number one cornerback for the Jets’ defense next year, even if he is not and will never be Darrelle Revis.

This article is part of a series analysing cornerbacks.

You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf

One thought on “Antonio Cromartie: The Numbers, The Tape, The Verdict

  1. Very interesting piece ,and enjoying a lot of the DB series and the other things. Just one small error I noticed, in the bit about the Cardinals game it says “Fitzgerald had very few opportunities to overpower Fitzgerald”.

    Keep up the fine work, few if any writers are matching this video analysis. It even inspired me to do some, albeit for rugby!

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