FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — For Buster Skrine, the lowest point was in Miami on Oct. 22. He committed three penalties, including two on the Dolphins’ tying drive in the fourth quarter. Skrine had a terrible game, one to forget, as the Jets lost, 31-28.
“I’ve played bad before,” Skrine said after Thursday’s practice. “I’ve had a bad game, (but) being in New York City, you have a bad game, it’s maximized, and it was a division game. A lot on the line. I did play pretty bad that game and I take ownership.”
Skrine has played better since. On the season, he has one interception, eight pass breakups (tied for second on the team), 52 tackles and two quarterback hits. In last week’s loss to the Saints, Skrine was one of the bright spots, forcing and recovering a fumble.
“Middle of the year, last three weeks, he’s played outstanding football,” Todd Bowles said. “He started off playing well, and he had some games where he had some penalties he’d like to have back. But I think he’s cleaned all that up. He’s playing great football of late.”
Skrine is quick to point out he was playing well before the Miami game. In the previous game, he had an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a loss to the Patriots.
It was just that one game in Florida that messed Skrine up. His penalty issues and lack of ball awareness hurt him, but Bowles said those are correctable mistakes.
“Seeing the ball better,” Bowles said. “He’s looking back for the ball, (and) some of the penalties were questionable. But some of them he wasn’t looking back on the ball.”
Speak to Skrine on any given day and you get a smirk when the discussion turns to playing cornerback. Skrine is quick to remind a reporter that short-term memory for a corner is the key to individual success. Playing the mental game with the quarterback and wide receiver helps gain an edge, too.
A look at his season would prove he’s correct. Yes, Skrine played poorly at Miami, a loss that has haunted the Jets because they felt they should have won. He’s played so well of late that he and Morris Claiborne have become a pretty good duo.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well all year, to be honest,” Skrine said. “But I feel like the Miami game was such a bad game that people thought I had a bad year. But if you watch every game, I haven’t given up a deep ball. I’ve been very competitive in every single game. Before that I was praised for the Patriots game and then I have a bad Miami game and then ‘Oh, he’s having a bad season.’ I feel like I’ve been playing well this year, and just stringing these games together has helped.”
Skrine faces a strong challenge Sunday from the Chargers, who have the NFL’s seventh-best offense (368 yards a game) and third-best passing offense (268.6). Philip Rivers was just named to his seventh Pro Bowl, and he throws to Keenan Allen, who is sixth in the NFL in receptions (88) and fourth in receiving yards (1,197).
Rivers will not be afraid to challenge Skrine. However, at times Claiborne is asked to cover the best receiver, which is Allen. Skrine could get matched up against Tyrell Williams, but in nickel coverage Skrine moves into the slot, and that’s where he could see Allen. Skrine said he’s played three positions this season — corner, slot corner and safety. He’s also asked to blitz, support the run and play man-to-man.
“I feel like this has been a good stretch,” Skrine said. “I’ve been thrown at a lot and I felt like I’ve held my ground, made a lot of plays, and I look to continue to do the same thing.”