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  • Cromartie, the natural

    Antonio Cromartie is pro football's version of "The Natural."

    The fictional Roy Hobbs used a special bat made from a tree hit by lightning. The lightning within Cromartie is God-given. It's in his legs. It's in his vision, which allows him to spot throws and intercept them.

    Many athletes can be considered naturals, but there is something extra special about Cromartie. While watching the Chargers' victory over the Titans in the wild-card round, it was hard not to notice Cromartie. Since Lawrence Taylor, our football eyes are usually trained to follow the pass-rusher, which naturally draws us to Shawne Merriman, a pass-rusher created in the Taylor mold. Plus, he wears No. 56, Taylor's number.

    Cromartie draws attention because of his love for the game. Against the Titans, he was in the middle of the field near the end zone waving his hands, hoping to get the home crowd into the game. Even though he's a rising star at cornerback, Cromartie embraces special teams. One of the league's best gunners, he always stands out in punt coverage.

    His coverage skills in regular defense are exceptional. He's 6-foot-2, 203 pounds with long arms that can be ideal for press coverage. He runs his 40-yard sprints in 4.3 seconds, but his style is smooth. And he loves the game.

    "He's a Deion Sanders type with more height,'' Chargers secondary coach Bill Bradley said.

    Bradley's been around football for more than three decades, dating back to his paying days with the Philadelphia Eagles as one of the league's best safeties. Great athletes intrigue him. One of his favorites was wide receiver Harold Carmichael, a 6-8 former Eagle who used to amaze him with his freakish ability.

    One day on the Eagles' practice field, Bradley watched Carmichael throw a football from end zone to end zone. At the sight of that, Bradley and quarterback Roman Gabriel winked. They'd snooker teammates into bets on which Eagle could throw the farthest. Once the money was on display, Bradley and Gabriel would call on Carmichael and watch the suckers lose their bets.

    In Chargers practice one day, Bradley watched Cromartie throw the ball. It sailed 80 yards.

    So how does a Deion Sanders-type cornerback with unique talents slip to the 19th pick in the first round? Easy. He wasn't supposed to go that high. Some teams thought general manager A.J. Smith was crazy to "reach" for Cromartie, whose college experience was cut short by injuries. Now Smith looks like a genius.

    Cromartie lettered at Florida State during his freshman and sophomore seasons. In his second season in 2004, Cromartie earned All-ACC honors, even though he started only one game.

    In 2005, he blew out a knee doing a one-on-one drill during a voluntary workout. The rehab was too lengthy for him to play in 2005, even though he begged the medical staff for clearance.

    In 2006, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He had to be home. For financial reasons, he decided to tu rn pro, even though he had only one collegiate start.

    Smith didn't have a pressing need for a cornerback, but he's always looking ahead. The team had locked up Quentin Jammer to a long-term deal to be the franchise's No. 1 cornerback, but Smith didn't think he'd be able to do the same for No. 2 cornerback Drayton Florence. Figuring Florence could leave in free agency after the 2007 season, Smith gambled on Cromartie.

    "I've always wanted to have three good cornerbacks and you try to look ahead to have that,'' Smith said. "I don't want to be safe and good. Sometimes, you have to take chances to be great."

    Upon Cromartie's arrival in 2006, it was easy to notice the raw skills, but they were almost too raw. He had the ability to blanket wide receivers running up the field, but he struggled when they adjusted their routes to the coverages. That's understandable, considering his limited college experience.

    He grew into the third cornerback role with the Chargers and was a big help on special teams in 2006. Still, there were no plans for him to start in 2007.

    "He got into our sub packages, and you could see the fantastic athletic ability,'' Bradley said. "Then, he started making interceptions. He did that for a couple of reasons. He's become a student of the game. In games, he started making plays.''

    The Nov. 11 game against the Colts was his Roy Hobbs moment. He came into the game as a backup, but Jammer injured his hamstring and couldn't play. The Chargers moved Florence to left corner and started Cromartie on the right.

    The legend began. Cromartie intercepted three Peyton Manning passes. One of those picks, an incredible one-handed, leaping catch, is one of the best defensive plays of the year.

    "You figured out it was his time,'' Bradley said. "How could you keep him out of the starting lineup? We plugged him in and he started making interceptions. Plus, he studies guys in the film room. If a guy is doing something to tip off what's going to happen, he comes up with the tip. He's a joy to be around.''

    Cromartie led the league with 10 interceptions, made the Pro Bowl and even garnered three votes for defensive player of the year. And he's only going to get better. Scouting reports indicate Cromartie will guess on some plays, which leaves him vulnerable to completions. He still can be beaten with some double moves, but he will improve in that area the more he plays.

    It's still amazing to think Cromartie emerged as one of the AFC's best defenders in a season in which he wasn't expected to start. He's a natural. The Chargers understood that once they drafted him.

    Too keep his players amused, Bradley has an exercise called "Friday Night Lights." Defensive backs are asked to bring in some of their best high school highlight tapes. Late in the week, the pressure of preparation is off, so watching the tapes is a fun diversion for the players.

    From those tapes, players have to determine the Oscars. To no one's surprise, Cromartie's in the top three for Oscars.

    "Antonio reached into his archives,'' Bradley said. "You see him playing some defensive backs. You see him returning punts. You see him intercepting passes. You see him do some running from the backfield. He's like a diamond in the rough.''

    Roy Hobbs, move over. Cromartie's the next natural.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playof...ohn&id=3191906
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  • #2
    In Chargers practice one day, Bradley watched Cromartie throw the ball. It sailed 80 yards.
    Might as well put him at QB, you'll have a better chance to win the Super Bowl.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by B4Bronco6 View Post
      Might as well put him at QB, you'll have a better chance to win the Super Bowl.
      They wouldn't want to risk making Rivers cry.

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      • #4
        80yrds my ass....... he did not throw an 80rd pass *laughs*.....

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        • #5
          we'd probably need the broncos to play us in a superbowl to win it, since rivers is their sole owner...and soul owner

          oh well too bad they're both afc teams....aw shucks
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          • #6
            Originally posted by jcdavey View Post
            we'd probably need the broncos to play us in a superbowl to win it, since rivers is their sole owner...and soul owner

            oh well too bad they're both afc teams....aw shucks
            Sole owner? haha, it's a team sport. Without LT and Gates, Rivers wouldn't own anybody.

            and about the super bowl thing, I think it's very safe to say that Rivers will never make it to the super bowl. Heck, he's most likely the one who's holding the Chargers back.

            And yes, they are both AFC teams, but I guess you wouldn't really know much about that since you live in Quebec.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by tarded homer article
              In Chargers practice one day, Bradley watched Cromartie throw the ball. It sailed 80 yards.

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              • #8
                Good article jc. I've been a fan of Cro since his days at FSU. I am just curious about all those interceptions he made. Is that the only thing he did well, or did he play the run well? Did he make other plays at the ball that weren't picks? Or how about keeping his receiver in check? I didn't get a chance to watch much Chargers games this year, and I curious about him.

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                • #9
                  In Chargers practice one day, Bradley watched Cromartie throw the ball. It sailed 80 yards.
                  Cromartie can throw a football 80 yards.... Jay Cutler can throw Cromartie 80 yards


                  My 2007 Adopt a Broncos are Brandon Marshall and Erica Weston

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                  • #10
                    Two words: Deltha O'neal



                    Cromartie may indeed become a top corner. But don't count your chickens and all that.
                    "You can't take the sky from me..."
                    ------
                    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Javalon View Post
                      Two words: Deltha O'neal



                      Cromartie may indeed become a top corner. But don't count your chickens and all that.
                      he has more ints just vs peyton this year (4) than champ had all season (3) lol scoreboard
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                      • #12
                        Right, let's compare interceptions this season to decide who the better corner is.

                        Anyway, regarding Cromartie... he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota adding to all of his interceptions. He's a great athlete.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TRUEBRONCOFAN24 View Post
                          Right, let's compare interceptions this season to decide who the better corner is.

                          Anyway, regarding Cromartie... he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota adding to all of his interceptions. He's a great athlete.
                          sorry man, i forgot this wasn't a thread in the smack area

                          i was just messing around and posting a odd little factoid
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