Failure is not an option for Buster Skrine, and neither is missing the playoffs.
The Jets cornerback has no doubts that his team will be postseason-bound come January. “We are, definitely, a playoff team,” Skrine said Monday in an interview with Newsday.
Skrine also has set personal goals for 2016, including finishing in the top 5 in the NFL in passes defensed and earning his first Pro Bowl nod. “I need some kind of accolade coming out of this year,” he said.
Prior to signing a four-year, $25-million deal with the Jets last offseason, Skrine was just hitting his stride with the Browns. In 2014, his fourth season in Cleveland, he tied for eighth in the NFL with a career-high four interceptions and tied for fourth with 18 passes defensed. Now, he’s looking to take his game to the next level in Todd Bowles’ system.
“In college, you get All-American and all that. When you get in the NFL, you want the same thing, the same standard,” Skrine said. “Last year, I played the majority in nickel, so I understand. In Cleveland, I probably had one of my better years playing corner and nickel my fourth year. So I feel like if I come in again this year and do the same thing, you know what? Maybe I will go to the Pro Bowl. That’s my personal goal. To go to the Pro Bowl this year.”
He added with a smile: “I’m getting old. I’m six years in.”
What he lacks in size, Skrine (5-9, 185) always has made up for with tenacity. His competitive drive and scrappy play made him an instant favorite among coaches and teammates who appreciate his 100-mph motor.
“Buster is a joy to coach. Really a coach’s dream,” defensive backs coach Joe Danna said. “He goes hard every day, likes coaching, wants to be coached, wants to find ways he can get better. And a guy who has his ability, who can play inside and out, is really a luxury.”
Skrine is competing with good friend Marcus Williams for the starting spot opposite Darrelle Revis. Skrine feels good about his chances. “I’m not going to say I’m the starter right now because we’re still in training camp,’’ he said. “But I think I have a great chance of starting.”
Asked whether the competition has affected his friendship with Williams, he said: “On the field, we’re good friends and off the field, I probably hang out with him the most. So it’s a brotherhood. At the end of the day, we can’t make the decision. That’s up to our coaches and the front office. We just come out here and compete every day and whatever happens, happens.”
His aggressive style of play hasn’t been an issue for receivers who line up against him in one-on-one or 11-on-11 drills. Instead, guys like Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall appreciate his effort.
“I think the offensive guys respect me because I do practice hard and I give them a good look,” Skrine said. “It’s better going against somebody who’s going full speed than a halfway guy, and when you get in a game, you’re jammed at the line because you haven’t had a guy challenge you.”
His fellow defensive backs also can’t help but be a bit envious of his quickness.
“Sometimes Calvin (Pryor’s) like, ‘Let me touch your hands so I can get some of that speed.’ Or they ask, ‘Man, how do you always run around like that and not get tired?’ ’Cause I don’t get in the cold tub or nothing like that. It’s all natural. I don’t get sore.”