Todd Bowles was asked a point-blank question today of the kind that a lot of NFL reporters ask head coaches at this time of the preseason: Now with training camp over, who were the most improved players at camp?
Bowles just doesn't bite on these questions unless he's ready to answer them. Today he was ready.
"I would say it's Buster at this point, and maybe [Brian] Winters," the Jets head coach said of his cornerback and his guard. "I'd probably go with those two."
Buster Skrine was happy to hear that, and he had a theory about why Bowles feels that way.
"Every day I just come in and compete, try to compete like it's a game," he said. "I think coaches and players take notice of that, that I take practice serious."
But neither Bowles nor Skrine was ready to declare Skrine the corner starter opposite Darrelle Revis for the season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 11. I asked Buster if that endorsement means he's got the job or if the fight still goes on with Marcus Williams, Dee Milliner and others at the position.
"They haven't said somebody's the starter yet," Skrine said. "I'm going to say it's still a fight."
But one goal Skrine has for this season is a simple math and the answer is 100 percent.
"Last year I was in 80 percent of defensive plays and that was just nickel. Who knows how many plays I'll play" if he gets the starting nod, he said. "I want to stay on the field the whole game, though."
Skrine's production hasn't been much in the two preseason games — he has four tackles, no picks or PDs, on his 39 defensive snaps. But playing the outside in the base and moving inside on the nickel, he made solid plays throughout the course of camp.
Yet when asked what was his favorite part of the last month, he talked not about interceptions but about reps.
"Probably the Green & White scrimmage," he said, referring to the Aug. 6 evening practice, "just because we had a lot of plays called that day. Just knowing any call that came in, I was like, 'I got it,' instead of thinking about it and what to do."
Skrine exudes a quiet confidence in his abilities, and that confidence doesn't waver in the face of a matchup against the Giants that could feature WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and, returning from his groin injury, Victor Cruz. Skrine called the game "the battle of New York, so it's a big game," and he gave insight into how he's approaching it.
"I just want to win the game in general. That's the mindset you want here," he said. "But I definitely know however long the starters play, I want to have a dominating performance, go in there, run the calls right, get off the field on third down."