FLORHAM PARK, N.J.-- Something wasn't right. That much was obvious. What that "something" was? Well, that wasn't as easy to pinpoint.
For the first two and a half months of the season, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was just a shadow of his former self. The 10-year veteran looked nothing of a player that had earned four Pro Bowl honors, including three straight. Instead, he resembled a guy that would be out of the league in a year.
He couldn't cover anyone, was giving up touchdowns (yes, plural) each week, and had coaches fielding questions on if he should be sent to the bench.
And now? Well, that's not the talk anymore.
"I feel like I'm healthy," Cromartie said.
Almost to a fault, whatever personal obstacles Cromartie happens to be dealing with at any point in time, he'll never use them as an excuse for his production on the field. Be that injuries, mental hurdles or anything else, if the cornerback's play is down, the only reasoning for it is that he has to play better. Through those first 10 games, it was evident things weren't right with No. 31. In these last four, he's been a completely different cornerback.
This season, Cromartie has allowed seven touchdowns. Six of those scores game in the season's first 11 weeks. Just one has come since.
"I've never made excuses for my play," Cromartie said. "First half of the season, I was not all the way healthy from the standpoint of dealing with some mild things. Now, I feel healthy, I feel like I'm playing at a high level. The best thing is my teammates have continued to trust in me and the coaching staff has kept me on the field, also.
"I owe them what I need to come out and do, and that's playing football like I'm supposed to do."
With Cromartie now back, the Jets finally have the secondary they envisioned this offseason. There's Darrelle Revis opposite Cromartie with Buster Skrine in the slot. Marcus Williams works himself in, while Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor man the safety positions.
And the Jets will need all of them if they hope to slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots this Sunday.
"They look for a defense to make a mistake, and when they make the mistake, they capitalize on it very well," Cromartie said. "I think the biggest thing is you have to try to play calm and play football from that standpoint as a defense."