Cromartie learning as he goes

This week's scouting report takes a look at the play of Antonio Cromartie in the Chargers' 40-7 win over the visiting Tennessee Titans. Cromartie finished the game with just two tackles, but did a nice job in coverage in helping limit the Titans to 163 total passing yards.

Cromartie played regularly in passing situations, covering Drew Bennett on the outside while Drayton Florence slid inside to defend the slot receiver. Bennett beat Cromartie for two of his three receptions, including an 18-yard touchdown grab that spoiled the Chargers' shutout bid. But Cromartie returned the favor by twice smothering Bennett downfield in what was a solid overall performance by the team's first-round pick.

"I know the defense so it is coming out here and applying myself," he explained.

Their first encounter came on second-and-long with just over eight minutes left in the second quarter when Kerry Collins lofted a pass to Bennett, who had Cromartie running with him stride for stride down the sideline. The pass fell incomplete.

Cromartie was next tested late in the third quarter, when on third down Collins hit Bennett on a comeback route for 15 yards. Cromartie got a good hit on Bennett afterwards, but the pass was still good for a first down. Bennett challenged Cromartie again just five plays later, but the rookie showed great speed and hung right with the veteran on a go route down the sideline.

The final time the two clashed was on the first scoring play against the Chargers defense this season. Cromartie was covering Bennett in man coverage, and fellow rookie Vince Young was able to find his man in the back of the end zone, threading a pass between Cromartie and free safety Marlon McCree, who got a late read on the throw.

"Cromartie grew up a lot tonight," McCree added. "It is a good game for him to watch on film and learn."

It will be interesting to monitor Cromartie's continuing development. He was never challenged by Tennessee with short passes or double moves, two things he struggled with during training camp. The Titans couldn't afford to try such tactics, as the Chargers were getting good penetration on defense, allowing their corners to sit on most underneath routes.

"You have to teach him the ropes a little bit," Quentin Jammer explained of his leadership role in the secondary. "You see he has so much athletic ability out there."

The addition of Cromartie to this secondary is paying dividends already. The team trusts him so much already on the outside that they blitzed Drayton Florence from his slot position, leaving Cromartie on an island with arguably the Titans best receiver. That is saying a lot about the confidence the Chargers have in their young cover corner.

Cromartie contributed covering kicks, too. Although his impact was less noticeable in that facet of the game, the Chargers did hold the Titans to less than 23 yards per kickoff return.

The Chargers have their bye next week, and in week four travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. During that game we will be analyzing the performance of defensive end Luis Castillo.


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