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Palladino: Cromartie Could Lead Jets To Better Future

Antonio Cromartie (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Antonio Cromartie (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Too bad Antonio Cromartie can only cover half the field. The way he’s playing these days, he looks just as good as Darrelle Revis.

Of course, this is only expected. Cromartie came to the Jets from San Diego as a top-flight cornerback. When Revis was healthy, Cromartie was only slightly overshadowed by the shutdown cornerback, and the two were regarded as at least one of the top, if not THE top cornerback tandem in the league.

Now that Revis is gone, it seems Cromartie has taken it upon himself to step up his game even more. Though tested every game, the seventh-year veteran has given the 3-3 Jets no reason to worry about that side of the field.

Or more exactly, whatever side he happens to be playing.

Cromartie, you see, covers the opposition’s best guy now. Follows him all over the place.

Sunday, it was the Colts’ Reggie Wayne, and we all know how that turned out. Wayne had five catches for 87 yards, but was kept out of the end zone in the Jets’ record-evening 35-9 win at the Meadowlands.

Just for good measure, Cromartie recorded his third interception of the season, a second-quarter throw by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck headed for, you guessed it, Wayne. He would have had a pick-six, too, had not a tickey-tack roughing flag on Aaron Maybin’s apparently clean block on Luck not been called.

He also got his hands on another ball for Wayne, also returning it to the end zone. But the officials pulled that one off the board, too, this time for his own pass interference.

Oh, and those 87 reception yards the five-time Pro Bowler Wayne compiled? All but 19 came in garbage time in the fourth quarter, this a week after Wayne deep-fried Green Bay for 13 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown.

This isn’t the first time Cromartie has shut somebody down. He had the Texans’ Andre Johnson last week. Total output: One catch for 15 yards. And Cromartie had an interception off Matt Schaub’s pass to Johnson.

He held the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree to two short catches with two breakups the week before that.

Rex Ryan wasn’t all that happy with Cromartie’s three penalties against the Colts, but he said he won’t do anything to curb the cornerback’s aggressiveness.

Smart man, that Ryan. Especially when the offense is going so well against a team without a defense.

“He doesn’t need to foul,” Ryan said Monday. “He needs to let his athleticism handle it.

“Once we start getting out of those penalties, I think the sky’s the limit for him. He’s doing a really great job.”

We’ll soon see if Cromartie keeps up that good work against a Patriots team that comes in ticked as all get-out after losing their third game by two points or less. Wes Welker awaits. Brandon Lloyd awaits.

Thank heaven Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be the linebackers’ and safeties’ headaches.

Cromartie will have his hands full.

Then again, should he expect anything less than the best from the AFC East’s perennial top dog?

“I’ve got news for everybody,” Ryan said. “We always get their best. They always get ours.

“I guess I’ve finished second every year I’ve been here in our division. They know that we know we have to knock them off for us to get to where we want to get to, or anybody in our conference, they have to beat New England.”

Cromartie’s continued leadership on the field will be a big part of determining whether the Jets pull off those needed wins this year.

So far, it appears he’s been up to the challenge.

Will Cro lead the Jets to a win this week? Be heard in the comments below…