So there’s been a lot of talk about the Bears new NCB Buster Skrine, but nobody seems to be saying anything conclusive. I’ve heard that he’s “one of the best nickel corners in the league” (Matt Nagy) and that he’s a “terrible, awful penalty machine” (Jets fans).
So who is he? What does he do well? What are his weaknesses? I decided to answer these questions for myself and whipped up a quick film review — hope y’all enjoy!
Just like the Trevathan review, this article will be filled to the brim with gifs and video links — I know the videos have trouble playing on some platforms, so I’ll be linking the videos to text as well. In case links don’t show up properly either, simply click on the italicized portion of each paragraph — that’ll take you to the play in question. Without any further ado, let’s break down this new Bear.
For starters, Buster Skrine is a physical corner who uses his hands well to feel out where slot receivers are going. On this play he’s matched up against Golden Tate and does exactly this -- lines up close to LOS, gets his hands out early, and seamlessly trails Tate’s pattern.
Much like Prince Amukamara, Skrine likes to use his hands to either slow receivers down within 5 yards or feel out their breaks as they move. Here he denies Kenny Stills the opportunity to ever get moving and forces Osweiler to throw the ball away.
But just because he’s physical doesn’t mean he’s not fast -- Skrine has plenty of footspeed, and he shows in these two plays. An NCB simply has to be able to keep up with streaking slot receivers, so this is a good trait to see.
His screen recognition also impressed me -- these two plays show off Skrine’s acceleration and mental quickness as he bursts forward to snuff out two Miami screen attempts. With a ferocious pass rush like the Bears’, countering screens will always be important.
The Jets also liked using Skrine on blitzes, so I can understand what the ever-aggressive Chuck Pagano sees in him. These three blitzes attempts (all from NYJ-HOU) show us Skrine’s blitzing capabilities. He’s quick off the edge, pressures well, but needs to ensure he finishes each play.
Also, expect Skrine to get involved against the run whenever possible. While often blocked, Skrine makes the best of his chances against RBs whenever he can reach them. Not every corner is this brazenly physical, so it’s another nice trait to note.
This isn’t to say that Skrine is a force against the run, just that he’ll help out wherever he can. This play shows Amendola block him for about 2.5 seconds, but Skrine keeps fighting and peels off at the end of the play to ensure the RB doesn’t gain extra yardage.
But I know what you’re thinking: “Robert, he only signed for ~5.5M/y, he can’t be THAT good. What’s the catch?”
Well, Skrine isn’t very good at changing direction after stopping. He’s not terrible, but most NFL receivers can beat him with a well-run routes. Watch his feet on these examples and you’ll see him lose a step each time he swaps direction. Not great.
Skrine also has a pension for penalties, racking up 7 flags for 107 yards in 2018. This makes him one of the 15 most-penalized DBs in football and solidifies his discipline as something for fans to keep an eye on. The examples shown include a vicious facemask, D holding, and DPI.
All in all, Buster Skrine looks like a guy who fits well into what the Bears want to do on defense. He’s an aggressive, physical corner with blitzing experience that possesses the tools needed to play NCB well. He’ll need some help from his front 7, but at the end of the day I think this is a solid signing at a solid price. The (likely) loss of Bryce Callahan stings, but if Callahan gets 7M/y+ I think it justifies Skrine’s 5.5M/y. Skrine is a sound NCB that, if healthy, has what it takes to keep this Bears defense rolling.
And that, folks, is what counts