The New York Jets had defensive struggles last season largely due in part to their horrendous secondary play. Cornerback Buster Skrine is without a doubt on the hot seat in 2017, however, he has a great opportunity to bounce back.
The New York Jets entered the 2017 offseason in desperate need of cornerback help. Darrelle Revis was released, Marcus Williams has proven to be injury-prone and youngster Juston Burris is still raw. As a result, general manager Mike Maccagnan went out and signed 2012 sixth-overall pick Morris Claiborne to a one-year deal worth $5M. Gang Green could pull the trigger on Ohio State standout Marshon Lattimore in this year’s draft to add even more talent to the unit. That move would essentially shore things up on the outside.
The question now is what about Buster Skrine? He seemed to be a destined cap casualty in February, but now it looks like he’ll be New York’s nickel corner for the third-consecutive season. According to Over The Cap, his cap number ($8.5M) is the third-highest on the team and cutting him would save close to $3M. Fans have been begging for his release, although it wouldn’t make sense since it’s almost April. The remaining nickel corners on the market are weak.
What mostly led to his demise in 2016 was the lack of depth at the position. He was forced to play on the outside where he’s noticeably uncomfortable in coverage. At 5’9,” he struggles mightily with the taller, physical wideouts. On Pro Football Focus, he earned a 53.3 overall grade which ranked 89th amongst the 113 cornerbacks who received at least 300 snaps. He earned a 52 in coverage, a 63.9 in run defense and a 71 in pass rushing under a heavy workload of 816 snaps.
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Skrine’s first year with the Jets was much more productive. His PFF overall grade (46.4) and stats may not say so, however, he played his usual nickel corner role in all 16 games. In the slot, he made more tackles, matched up better with receivers and played a huge part in the blitzing department.
His ability to come off the edge as an extra rusher won New York several games and relieved pressure off the primary corners. Head coach Todd Bowles had no other choice in 2016 but to use him out of position because Williams had trouble staying on the field and Revis was painful to watch. It would’ve been silly to stick Burris and Darryl Roberts on the opponent’s best receivers.
With all that said, the Jets made the right decision to hold onto him. They don’t have many corners on the roster and none can play the nickel as effectively as he does. Skrine, Claiborne, Williams, Burris, Roberts, Dexter McDougle, Nick Marshall and Bryson Keeton are the eight guys who currently make up the unit. McDougle played a mere six snaps in 2016 while Marshall and Keeton played none at corner. Both were strictly special teams bodies.
For Skrine to get back on the right foot this upcoming season, his teammates need to stay healthy and productive. If that doesn’t happen, then once again he’ll be forced to play out of position. Maccagnan may need to add insurance on day one or two of the draft so Bowles can use a rotation for the primary corners. If this can happen and Skrine stays in the slot where he belongs, you can absolutely expect him to rebound in 2017. It’s all up to the front office and coaching staff.