he corner back position is sure to draw a lot attention at Browns training camp and will be an important piece for the defense to solidify if they want to progress this year. I thought I'd whip up a quick film study on Buster Skrine to help fans and readers better understand a small sample of his play last year. I took a look at a few of the games where he was called on to be a starter or played a bigger role and in them there were both good and bad plays. I didn't really look at games in the last part of the season just because of time. Perhaps I can whip something up on a handful of the other games sometime next week.
Buster Skrine was a 5th round draft pick out of a small college, Chattanooga. He is known for his speed, often mentioned as one of the fastest, if not the fastest player on the Browns. Skrine showed toughness and resiliency last year, combining for 71 tackles amidst numerous pass interference penalties and big gains. Much of this was because Skrine was thrust into the starting role last season on account of the 4 game suspension of Joe Haden. During this time, many of his pre-draft weaknesses were exploited and confirmed. The pressure and demands of being a starting NFL cornerback vs some of the leagues top receivers appeared to be too much for him to handle. That being said, teams knew this and immediately picked on Skrine's weaknesses, starting with the Bengals in week 2. That trend didn't stop as the season went on.
I am not sold on Buster being the CB2 on the outside, but I do believe that many of his mistakes from last year were technique related or had to do with Skrine being too aggressive. These are all things that can be fixed. Often times his zest or overzealous approach got him into trouble, especially vs the Cowboys in week 11 where he racked up 3 pass interference penalties. Many of these penalties were really more about the mental aspect of his game, simply put just making bad decisions. Again, I believe this can all be fixed. Skrine contributed well against the run, netting 14 tackles, 6 were for a loss, the most of any Browns corner last year. However had had a tackling efficiency of 6.3, meaning that for every 6.3 tackles vs the run, he missed 1. Same for his effectiveness vs the pass, where his total efficiency was 7.3, so for every 7.3 tackles he made, he missed 1.
If Skrine's confidence grows, his play should also elevate. He is loved for his hard nosed play and approach to the game. The staff likes his ability to tackle and his willingness to create contact. While he did grade negatively for most the year, I think he should gain confidence this season on account of having a lot of harsh but valuable experience in coverage last year. He needs to trust his technique more, limit his mental errors - especially if he's been beat. If he can improve his play, he has a solid chance at winning the starting role this year. If he can't adjust and play better technical football, then his chance to impact the game outside of nickel packages or special teams will be limited. If this is the case, he could very well end up losing out to McFadden, Owens or even Wade for the CB2 job and find himself in a battle for CB3. I personally am hoping McFadden rises to the occasion and is ready to start by the time the season rolls around, but I certainly only advocate for the best player to be on the field, whoever that is.
**Click on all images below and in Film Room to ENLARGE **
2012 Week by Week Summary
Snaps in Coverage
Stops vs. Run
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati
AJ Green: Buster slips as AJ makes cut and turns outside on quick out route, once recovered, Skrine dives and misses tackle but forces AJ Green out of bounds.
Here we see the Browns in a 4-2-5 nickel package. Buster is lined up tight in coverage vs. AJ Green.
Almost all CB have to honor AJ Green's size and speed, so it's not uncommon to give him a cushion, here we see the cushion Skrine gives Green.
Here we see Skrine slip following the cut by Green. I think if he doesn't slip, to his credit, he probably is able to hit green well before the first down marker, perhaps even make the play.
Here's the angle where we see Skrine trying to dive to make tackle. I'm assuming he dives because he wants to stop Green short of first down marker. However, Skrine misses on account of the stiff arm from Green, who slips outside and gains the first down relatively easily. Now keep in mind Green is a top 10 NFL WR and has a freakish mix of size, strength and speed.
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati
Pass Interference vs. Binns on the outside
Here we see the Browns lined up in a 4-3-4 over, with 2 safeties over the top but Ward is creeping into the box since it's first down, anticipating the run.
Here we see Skrine using his hands to check the receiver. Up until this point he has run right with Binns, has good position. Here we see the WR turning his head back towards the QB, which catches the attention of Skrine who begin to look up at Binns. This use of hands is good, and within the 5 yard allowable zone.
Binns turns the route up the sideline and is able to get free from the hand check seen earlier. Now he's in a foot race. Skrine is in good shape here actually and essentially is in the receivers back pocket. The ball is in the air at this point.
In this snip, the ball is nearly to the receiver, in fact you can see the shadow just behind the players' feet. It appears that Skrine has either lost track of the ball since he;'s already grabbing for the receivers arms or is reacting to the WR's arms and hands beginning to raise up instead of turning his head around to find the ball earlier.
I think this ball is probably catch-able without the contact and that this is the right call. Had Skrine been able to recover from the double move earlier, keep his balance and get his eye level up and around to see the ball at the right time, he has a chance to make this play.
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati
Bad angle on Tackle vs. Binns
It's early in the game and Skrine is giving Binns some cushion on the outside on 1st and 15. The Browns are lined up in the 4-3-4 over again, with Ward creeping up in the box.
Here we see Binns starting to make his cut back for the curl route. Skrine's still in the frame, notice his cushion has shrunk to about 5 yards. He's in good shape actually.
Here Binns is making the catch, and Skrine has recovered from the quick curl and you can see his angle is already taking him to the outside which we'll see even more clearly on the next shot. However, you see the opportunity Skrine has to make this tackle.
Binns plants his outside foot in the ground, using his body as a shield, and turns inside quickly, beating Skrine on account of his poor angle and because he hasn't "broken down" and is instead trying to be overly aggressive in making the tackle.
His poor angle leaves him stuck, and out of position, and here you see the missed tackle, allowing Binns to gain about 8 more YAC. This is an easily fixable error.
Week 3 vs. Buffalo
Press coverage vs. Stevie Johnson, gets beat but recovers well to save TD.
Here we see Skrine lined up on the outside in press coverage vs. Stevie Johnson. The Browns are in a 4-2-5 over, with our 2nd safety creeping up into the box. So essentially the pre-snap read from the QB is that there's one safety deep in center field and he has his speedster on the strong side against the scouting report of Buster Skrine.
Here's a better look at the one on one angle. Skrine is in press coverage.
Johnson immediately steps inside, selling an inside route. Skrine does well not to bite too hard, keeping his balance. Meanwhile, on the snap shot above this one, you'll notice Fitzpatrick's eyes and body are immediately keyed into Johnson. This play is designed to target Skrine.
Johnson quickly turns the route outside, and forces Skrine to turn his hips and recover. Again, at this point given how fast this move is in real time, Skrine has done very well to position himself properly and not get beat outright with this move.
Here we see Skrine recovering, pushing off his front foot and flipping his hips. His balance seems a little off but again he's actually is in good shape considering how fast this move really was at game speed.
Skrine maintains tight coverage, step for step with Johnson although we do see some space develop, if only a few feet. Sometimes that's all an elite WR needs, but Skrine again is in good position here.
As mentioned earlier, Fitzpatrick immediately had Johnson picked out as his target. You can see on this play, almost immediately following the inside out fake by Johnson, his arm is already cocked and ready to deliver the ball deep and to the outside.
Here we see the ball on the way, Johnson has one step on Skrine at this point, as mentioned from the earlier view.
While Skrine is in an awkward position, he has done well to put himself between the ball and Johnson, with Stevie nearly getting a clean shot at a hands catch here but Skine breaks up this obvious scoring chance with great timing and good awareness. While this play worked out for Skrine, it does show his weakness on passes thrown high to athletic receivers. This isn't a knock on him so much as it is something he'll need to learn how to play through.
Week 4 vs. Ravens
Good coverage VS Ravens, perfect throw from Flacco.
Skrine is in perfect position here, balanced, not too tight or loose, his head is up and able to see receiver and QB.
Skrine recognizes the play and is closing in perfectly, quickly and at a good angle. It just so happens that Smith slips on the wet turf, nearly allowing Skrine a chance at an INT.
While Smith makes a great catch, and Flacco a perfect throw into a tight window, Skrine is there to make a great tackle and play in coverage. This is picture perfect from Buster and there really wasn't much else that he can do.
Week 5 vs. New York
Questionable Pass Interference vs Randle.
At this point, Skrine has played the man and the play perfectly. He's stride for stride, balance, has his head and eyes keyed in on the man and the QB. The only thing he has allowed is his man to use his hands to push him off, allowing him inside slant route position. At this point in the route ( shown above and below ) this is the only location in the entire play that's perhaps what the referee's saw as pass interference. Skrine has his hand on Randle's back, but the issue comes because the ball is thrown behind the receiver and he has to slow down, creating contact with Skrine before the pass arrives. In my opinion, this was nothing major while watching live, however the refs disagreed with me.
Here you can better see Skrine's arm on Randle, but also you see a perfectly judged and timed pass coverage technique from Skrine. I think this is just an unlucky call, but also an opportunity for Skrine to learn how to better use his hands by not grabbing or holding the receiver, even slightly.
A better look that the perfectly timed contact from Skrine, just as the ball is arriving, not before. In fact it looks like he actually gets a piece of the ball instead of just swiping the Randle's arms in hopes of dislodging the ball and breaking up the pass. The announcers actually thought the penalty was because of the late hit not shown here by Usama Young, perhaps for hitting a defenseless receiver.
Week 11 vs. Dallas
Skrine's 2nd Pass Interference in a row vs. Dez Bryant ( first one saved a potentially big play )
Prefect position so far against one of the leagues best WR. Balanced and square. He needs to press this route to the outside, towards his "help" - the sideline.
Instead of adjusting his angle and his hips properly, Skrine gets in front of the receiver, almost blocking his route and forcing the contact and push to the outside.
Yeah, this use of hands outside 5 yards is going to be called every time. Too aggressive and not a smart play because he was out of position and had bad timing.
Still engaged with Bryant, ball is in the air and Skrine sees this, but the use of hands is about to draw the flag.
Here we see Skrine's size again hindering his ability to compete for balls thrown high, but more importantly on this play, we see the yellow flag flying in from the top left of your screen just above the bald, kung-fu business man's stance. Skrine, all else considered, made a great effort on this part of the play and had he not drawn the flag, this snip shows his ability to at least battle for the ball, even if at a disadvantage due to his height.
Week 11 vs. Dallas
Skrine's 3rd Pass Interference penalty of the game / 4th Quarter
Here we see Skring with about 10 yards of cushion on first down.
Skrine is angling to keep the play to the outside, and not let the WR turn inside.
This is evident here as well, as he is trying to squeeze the route to the sideline. Again, Skrine is nearly jumping in front of the route, and the WR is about to curl his route inside
Here we see Skrine in perfect position, he's flipped his hips, turned and has tight coverage. He reads the play, is balanced and aware of the ball on the way because he has his eyes up.
Skrine sees the ball coming, and is in good position, but is over aggressive and tries to make a play that he can't because the WR is in-between he and the ball. Skrine has to be able to move around the man as he see the ball being delivered, not through the man. This can also be corrected.
Here you can see Skrine clearly draped on his man well before the ball arrives. A little work on his positioning and approach, and this could be a deflected pass instead of a PI.