In what has been considered to be a transitional year for the New York Jets, much noise has been made in the secondary. Rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have seamlessly adjusted to the NFL spotlight, while veterans Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine have shown worth despite being late in their careers.
And through the fog of it all, blasted criticism from the media has been ignored. “Too many penalties, lacking coverage, and missed tackles.” These Jets know what they’re made of.
That is especially evident in Skrine, who has turned his disparaging fortunes around since the Jets bye week. He hasn’t slowed down a bit, but rather has flipped the switch as the Jets look to finish out strong.
Scoring off the Skrine
Since Week 12 (following the Jets bye) Skrine is tied for the top overall grade among 114 qualifying cornerbacks (per PFF). He’s been fierce by only allowing 10 receptions for 66 yards on 18 targets in the past three games. This includes a pass breakup, forced fumble and fumble recovery against the Saints last week.
And since racking up 11 flags through the Jets first 10 games, Skrine hasn’t committed another penalty entering their final home-stand against the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday.
#Jets @BusterSkrine had highest grade (88.2) on team. Across 36 coverage snaps, he was targeted 9 times, allowed 6 receptions for 38 yards. Since Week 12, Skrine is tied for top overall grade among 114 qualified CBs. He has 5 PBUs to go along w/ 62.4 QBR @PFF #NYJvsNO
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) December 18, 2017
“He’s been playing great football for us as of late….” Bowles told the NY Daily News. “He’s seeing the ball better. He’s looking back for the ball. Some of the penalties are questionable. Some of them he’s just looking back for the ball. But we’re happy with the way that he is playing right now.”
Deflecting the Criticism
Since Skrine’s NFL debut with the Cleveland Browns back in 2011, he’s taken the hits of all sorts of criticism. Some say he’s too short to play the position (5-9, 185 pounds) and others say he’s too scrappy, especially with all of the penalties.
But Skrine has put those words behind him. His focus in unmatched, and every day he takes the field to improve for himself.
“Everybody that knows me knows that I practice hard,” Skrine told the Daily News. “Each drill. Each team period. All that matters to me. I feel like that’s why a lot of people respect me as a player: They know every down I’m coming to fight. I think that’s probably one of my top traits: I’m going to compete every down.”
And as a 28-year old corner, that may not be something that is easy to prove to a rebuilding team. It certainly didn’t look to be the case when Skrine earned seven of his 11 flags in Week 7 at Miami (three) and Week 9 against the Bills (four). But the Jets and their coaching staff have allowed Skrine the opportunity to redeem himself, and that has paid dividends for a team approaching season’s end.
Skrine continues to stay step-for-step with some of the league’s best receivers as of late. Thus becoming a role model for a Jets secondary that is becoming accustomed to some of the league’s toughest offenses.
“He’s locked in,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said (NY Daily News). “He’s competitive. You can tell when Buster is into it. He’s talking on the sideline (like) ‘I feel like I got this guy today.’ He’s really, really been in tune.”
The coaching staff also looks at Skrine as a player that may be “one of the strongest guys on the team,” according to Bowles. He praises him for being a player that he loves coaching because “he loves to play the game.”
As for the Jets as a whole, the team will look to conclude their season on a high note with two games left on the schedule. With the playoffs officially unattainable, many players will be playing for self-pride, and a chance to retain their spot on an up-and-coming football team.
At least that is likely the case for Skrine, who was convinced he would “get cut” after “so many penalties” early on in the year. Now, he’s certainly making a good case to be a New York Jet for the foreseeable future.