The last time Antonio Cromartie (left) and Patrick Peterson were on the field at the same time was the Pro Bowl. Now they will start working as teammates.
Adding Antonio Cromartie to Patrick Peterson is a mixture Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will enjoy putting together.
Flexibility is certain for Bowles, given the abilities and size of the two Pro Bowl cornerbacks – assuming Cromartie's health. Its immediate impact on Peterson remains fluid, however. The 6-foot-1 Peterson spent the vast majority of 2013 sticking to the opponent's top receiver. The arrival of the 6-2 Cromartie doesn't necessarily change that on a game-to-game basis.
"It depends," Bowles said Tuesday. "Some people have two good receivers. Some people have a tight end. Cromartie gives you the flexibility to go inside on a tight end or stay outside on a receiver. It won't influence what Pat does. They both match up well. Some games Pat will be matching up, some games Cromartie will be matching up, depending on the receiver."
Cromartie's ability to play press-man, like Peterson, was a big part of his appeal to General Manager Steve Keim. It will allow
Bowles to stay aggressive with more defenders in the box if he so chooses.
Bowles agrees, but he also sees the size as necessary these days. Last year's Peterson partner in the starting lineup, the 5-foot-10 Jerraud Powers, sometimes suffered in the battle against bigger receivers. Bowles lists off the large men catching passes these days – Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, among others – and noted the massive advantage it can be for the offense.
"In the red zone, against a 5-9 corner, they are just picking peanuts off your head," Bowles said.
When he signed, Cromartie made sure to bring up rehabbing safety/nickel corner Tyrann Mathieu up when asked about the secondary potential with Cromartie and Peterson. There is little question Mathieu's ability when he returns from ACL surgery will help the Cards' defense immensely.
But the pass coverage will start with the Peterson and Cromartie and their ability to be physical.
"If (Cromartie) is healthy to play, it does allow you to be more flexible and gives you a taller guy, as well as a guy who has done it for a long time and still strikes fear into people," Bowles said. "Not that Powers was bad, but if you can get two 6-foot-plus-sized guys who can run and compete for the ball, that cuts off parts of the field."
Cromartie dismissed the immediate talk of where the combination of he and Peterson ranks among the league's best. Having never played together, it is the only way to view the situation.
"At the end of the day, if we are going out and doing our jobs and shutting down the receivers like we are supposed to and doing the things that we are supposed to do, then you start talking about how that tandem is and how long this tandem can play for, or this is one of the best tandems in the NFL," Cromartie said.
Cromartie has insisted the hip flexor strain that gave him problems last season is healed and his offseason workouts have been fine. The team's voluntary strength and conditioning program begins in Tempe in a little more than a month.
A few weeks later, Bowles will get to see his new cornerback duo on the field, in a secondary that should be better once Mathieu returns.
"Only if they prove me right," Bowles said with a laugh. "Every year is a new year. It's not the talent, it's jelling together. They will have to bail the D-line out (sometimes), the D-line will have to bail them out (sometimes). The faster we jell, the better off we will all be."