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NY Jets Saturday Spotlight: Buster Skrine

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Is Skrine the key to stopping the Patriots?

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Saturday Spotlight.   Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is cornerback Buster Skrine.  Skrine is a 5' 9", 185 pound, 26 year old cornerback out of the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga.  He was originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round as the 137th selection of the 2011 NFL draft.

Skrine played for four years in Cleveland, working his way from backup to starter.  He has never missed an NFL game.  Skrine's diminutive size limits his ability to match up outside against bigger NFL receivers, but his excellent speed and lateral quickness make him a perfect fit as a slot cornerback.  In the 2015 offseason Jets head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan identified Skrine as a great fit in the slot in Bowles' defensive system and aggressively pursued him in free agency, making Skrine the first major free agent signing of the new regime.  In his limited time with the Jets that signing has looked shrewd, as Skrine appears to be a major upgrade over departed slot cornerback Kyle Wilson.

Here are Buster Skrine's NFL statistics:

Year

Games

Passes Defended

Interceptions

Tackles

Assists

.

2011

16

2

1

14

4

2012

16

11

0

72

13

2013

16

18

1

55

10

2014

16

18

4

55

12

2015

5

2

0

16

3

This week's game against the Patriots offers the Jets an opportunity to seize first place in the AFC East division with a win on the road against the arch rival New England Patriots.   The Jets have some advantages in this contest, but the Patriots' one overwhelming advantage is at the quarterback position, where all time great Tom Brady is thus far enjoying one of the finest years of his storied career.  The Patriots, more than almost any other NFL team, rely almost exclusively on a short, precise passing game largely focused on the middle of the field.  Smaller, shifty slot receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola thrive in this offense.  If the Jets are to have success against Brady and the Patriots on Sunday, they will need to limit the damage done out of the slot by Patriots receivers.  No team is going to completely shut down the Patriots' passing game, but the Jets, with Skrine healthy, may be better suited than most to limit the damage.
A healthy Skrine may be the key that unlocks the puzzle of slowing down the Patriots' offensive machine.  If Skrine can limit Julian Edelman, a task he seems better suited to do than most, that frees up Darrelle Revis to be used as a strategic piece all over the field.  Revis can match up at times against the Patriots' All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, at times against Danny Amendola, perhaps even at times against shifty running back Dion Lewis running routes out of the backfield.  Using Revis in this way would keep Brady guessing and perhaps just a little off balance, hopefully creating just enough indecision on Brady's part for the occasional  mistake to occur.  It would also greatly improve the matchups for Jets defenders across the board.  Without Skrine taking on some or most of the responsibilities of covering Edelman, Revis would most likely be forced to cover Edelman most of the game, as the Jets do not have any other cornerbacks well suited to limiting Edelman.  That would leave Gronkowski working against safeties and/or linebackers the whole game, as well as leaving Amendola free to work against Cromartie or perhaps Marcus Williams for much of the game, matchups that would favor New England.  With Skrine, the entire set of matchups just look a whole lot more manageable.  Skrine also provides some pass rushing ability on selective blitzes that might produce some much needed pressure on Brady in limited situations.

Buster Skrine is still as of now in the concussion protocol and is not 100% certain to play on Sunday.  He says he is good to go and will be on the field.  If true, that is good news for Jets fans.  No doubt he will be targeted heavily throughout the game against the Patriots' slot threats.  How he fares against Edelman and/or Amendola will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this game.  Buster Skrine was specifically targeted by the new Jets regime just for games like this, where the slot receivers are key.  If Skrine can hold his own against the Patriots slot receivers then the Jets should be successful limiting the damage against an outstanding Patriots offense, setting the Jets up for a huge win on Sunday.  If Skrine can't play or gets torched, the Jets will likely be in for a long day watching the Patriots march up and down the field.

Buster Skrine is small in stature, but perhaps no Jets player will play a bigger role in determining the outcome of Sunday's game.  Games against the Patriots with first place on the line are about as big as regular season games get.  The spotlight doesn't get a lot brighter, and Skrine stands squarely in it.  This is Buster Skrine's moment to shine.  This is his time to make a statement.  This is his time to justify the considerable investment the Jets made in him.     This is Buster Skrine's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope he shines bright on Sunday.