Don Banks of Sports Illustrated caught up with Buster Skrine after a recent OTA. Skrine had a number of things to say about the defense, but one thing in particular stuck out to me.
"I knew coming in they wanted me to play both slot and outside corner, because we’re a matchup defense," Skrine said. "I could be on the outside one play, with someone else in the slot, or vice versa. They’re really building this team so we can stop the pass, which is how you win in the NFL now.
I think there is something to this. There are some defenses where one guy plays the left cornerback, one plays on the right side, and somebody else plays in the slot. Todd Bowles has not run his defense in this way. In Arizona, he frequently dictated the matchups by lining up a corner against a specific receiver. PFF says he had Patrick Peterson shadow the other team's top receiver in 11 of 16 games two seasons ago. He did it again frequently last season against the top receivers Arizona faced.
It will not happen in every game. Imagine playing a team like the Jets two years ago which had Jeremy Kerley as its top receiver. There was no need to have corners shadow because there was no receiver worth gameplanning against.
In many games, shadowing will be a part of strategy. That makes versatility important. Many teams move their top receiver into the slot to get a favorable matchup. If the Jets shadow, that means Darrelle Revis is going to head into the slot on those plays, while the number three receiver and Skrine will be kicked outside. Having corners with versatility is important.