Antonio Cromartie is a game changer. This is a Pro Bowl corner that has sick ball skills and he's long. Line him up opposite of Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals suddenly have five Pro Bowls on the perimeter. Steve Keim has made a concerted effort to get longer and more athletic in the secondary and Cromartie goes a long way toward that end.
And I love the fact they have the services of Cromartie on a one-year basis. If he wants that last big contract before the end of his career, he better start this season. That fact should motivate Cromartie and put him on the straight and narrow. Antonio is 29 and although there is no long term security in signing players to one-year deals, the NFL has turned into a league of year-to-year propositions, windows of opportunity that exist in a sole calendar year. It's why we see so many teams go from worst to first and vice versa. The win now mentality makes this signing awesome.
Having two shut down corners changes the dynamic of any defense. There are very few schemes that carry the impact of being able to line up two players over another team's best receivers and saying, "We dare you to throw the ball at them." When receivers have a difficult time getting open because of the tight coverage, a team's options are limited. And when their options are limited they become more predictable and when teams become more predictable offensively bad things happen. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks if this is true of their defense?
Cardinals Defensive Coordinator, Todd Bowles, will have many options because he has two corners that can become an island. This makes Bowles, already a defensive savant, one of the most dangerous coordinators in the league. He can roll the dice, bring vast, varied and volatile blitz packages, and have complete confidence on the perimeter.
Jon Abraham and every other pass rusher the Cards have just got a lot better. When a team's best receivers are limited and the QB begins to consider other options to throw the ball to, making them more predictable, those same quarterbacks tend to hesitate and hold the ball a split second longer. And that split-second is a pass rusher's best friend.
Big Red's defense was one of the best in the league in 2013. Even with the problems of covering the TE, the Cards were #14 in passing defense and #6 in passing yards/play. Bowles' defense also generated a ton of picks (#8 in interception rate) and only five teams in the league generated more turnovers than the Cards. And their rushing defense was the best in the league. These are beastly numbers, worthy of recognition, but difficult to replicate the following year. Unless you sign another shut down corner and actually get better on defense.
The loss of Karlos Dansby is significant because of all the plays he made in space. But that space just got much smaller with one of the best space-eaters in the game opposite of Peterson. And the Cardinals defense, the players in that meeting room, should proceed with confidence, conviction and certitude, knowing they have the makings of being the best defense in the NFL.
The beast just turned into a monster. Now play like it.