After a year on the inside with the Jets, Buster Skrine could see a lot more action on the outside in 2016. There is a vacancy across from Darrelle Revis and head coach Todd Bowles has said Skrine will probably start out at corner when training camp commences in July.
"Back at corner, I just want to get that feel back," Skrine said this week after an OTA. "Just build that relationship with my safeties, so I'm back at base. I just want to get that corner feeling back. I haven't done it since Cleveland, but that's what I wanted to do since I came here."
When the Jets rebuilt their secondary last spring, Skrine agreed to terms first and then Revis and Antonio Cromartie rejoined New York's AFC representative. Skrine assumed the role of nickel back and he played well despite just one interception and eight passes defended. He totaled 65 tackles (54 solos) along the way while playing one of the most difficult positions in sports.
"When you're at nickel, most of the times the slot has an option route, so it's like he's optioning off your leverage and you're just chasing him," Skrine said. "It's kind of more like basketball on the inside. He doesn't even know where he's going to go until he lines up and finds out your leverage."
For three consecutive weeks last season, Skrine displayed his toughness while battling through injuries. He suffered a concussion in Week 6 against the Redskins, he broke a bone in his left hand and injured his shoulder the following weekend in New England, and the shoulder kept him limited in Week 8 action at Oakland.
"That was probably my slump of the year, but I felt like I came back strong," Skrine said. "I think I produced pretty well, the coaches liked the way I played. I wore two casts last year and I was getting skinny because I couldn't lift weights. Everybody knows I'm a physical type of guy, so I couldn't use my hands like that."
Pound for pound, the 5'9", 185-pound Skrine is perhaps the strongest player on the entire roster. He is also one of the most versatile performers and his name immediately came to mind when the Jets released Cromartie in February. With Revis recovering from offseason wrist surgery, Skrine has spent a lot of time this spring outside at corner.
"The receivers are bigger on the outside and at the same time, it takes longer for the ball to get out there," Skrine said. "Actually when I was in Cleveland two years ago, I got my picks at corner. I got one off a tip in nickel. I got three outside and one inside."
Skrine not only had a career-high four interceptions in 2014, but he also had 18 passes defended. His 36 passes defended in 2013-14 unofficially were the third-most in the league during that time frame. Skrine, who can shift back inside at any point, believes there will be more opportunities to make plays on the ball when he goes outside.
"We are a man-to-man defense. You're playing nickel to man. That ball is coming fast, so it's more of a last second reaction thing," Skrine said. "Being on the outside, I have to be more productive passes defended-wise. The years I did play corner for Cleveland, I was top three in the league both times passes defended. But on the outside, when the route is set, it's set. A lot of times at corner, you're going to know off his split where he's going to run or certain runs he can run from his split."
If Skrine earns the starting spot across from Revis, he knows he'll probably be tested early. While Revis remains one of the top corners in football, Skrine can draw on the experience he gained opposite Joe Haden.
"He was a Pro Bowl guy, but at the end of the year you looked at the throws — even," Skrine said. "So you just have to earn your respect. People are going to try me during the first four games and help me get my stats up."