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Is Buster Skrine really better in the slot?

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NFL: New York Jets at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

One of the popular perceptions I’ve seen among Jets fans is that Buster Skrine will benefit greatly from playing a higher portion of his snaps in the slot compared to outside, thanks to the addition of Trumaine Johnson. After sifting through each and every pass attempt against Skrine in my recent coverage series, I decided to go back and test this theory. How did Skrine fare in the slot compared to outside from a statistical standpoint?

Here are Skrine’s stats broken up into two groups: his targets when lined up as the outermost cornerback, and his targets when lined up inside of the outermost cornerback.

Surprisingly, it turns out the Skrine was substantially better when lined up as the outermost cornerback on his side. Here are the complete numbers:

Outside: 18/34 passing, 147 yards (4.3 per attempt, 8.2 per completion), 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 10 total first downs, 3 penalties, 25 yards. 81.4 quarterback rating. 35% first down rate adjusted for penalties.

Inside: 36/57 passing, 440 yards (7.7 per attempt, 12.2 per completion), 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 21 total first downs, 8 penalties, 80 yards. 98.6 quarterback rating. 45% first down rate adjusted for penalties.

The numbers get even more interesting when you break it down by side of the field.

Outside left, Skrine was absolutely dominant in a minuscule sample size, allowing zero first downs on 8 targets. Outside right, Skrine was still steady, allowing only 4.7 yards per attempt, but he yielded 3 of his 5 total touchdowns playing outside right, and 7 additional first downs.

Conversely, when playing in the slot, Skrine was significantly better on the right side, compared to his improved play on the left side when in the slot.

In fact, Skrine was actually pretty solid playing the slot on the right side of the field. There, he allowed no touchdowns and strong numbers of only 6.9 yards per attempt and 28% of targets for first downs (36% when adjusted for his four penalties.) It was the left slot where he was struggling mightily, where, adjusted for penalties, he allowed a horrifying 55% first down rate.

The pattern I’m noticing here? Skrine was substantially better with space to his right side. He wasn’t specifically better in the slot compared to outside or on the left compared to the right. His best two regions were easily playing outside left and slot right. Is this a coincidence? Perhaps. Or, it might mean that Skrine does best with more action to his right side than on his left; whether that is with the whole field to his right on the left sideline, or with another defender directly to his right playing in the right slot.

All in all, this was really interesting to dive into. The athletic slot corner actually fared better playing outside, the place where the consensus agrees he struggles most.

What are your reactions to Skrine’s splits?