In the aftermath following the disaster that was Johnny Manziel’s first start...
Cleveland Browns CB Buster Skrine Makes Big Impression by Standing Tall Against Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns cornerback Buster Skrine has taken his share of lumps in the NFL. It’s not an easy job playing across from one of the league’s most underrated defensemen, Joe Haden. You become the opposing quarterback’s favorite target to pick on, and last season, Skrine was picked apart game after game.
This season, however, Cleveland’s short cornerback has not only been hanging in there, he’s been standing tall. Since coming out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Skrine has compiled 103 tackles, 13 passes defended and one interception over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. This year, he has already racked up 22 tackles, seven passes defended with one interception. It has become apparent that the offensive coordinator’s gameplan around attacking Skrine, but through four games, he has proven that it is no longer an easy task.
In Sunday’s matchup against Cincinnati, the Cleveland Browns dominated Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the Bengals offense. Haden essentially shut down their star receiver, Green, leaving him frustrated through tight coverage and aggressive suplex tackles. On the day, Green managed only seven receptions for 51 yards, and at no point did he really threaten to score on the suffocating Browns defense.
What was most surprising, though, was how often Ray Horton trusted Skrine to cover Green. In the third quarter on 3rd and 7, Dalton targeted Green in the middle of the field in what would have been at least a 20-plus yard reception with open space. Skrine utilized his closing speed, went up for the pass and deflected it away from the bigger Bengals receiver. And Skrine’s impressive game on defense didn’t stop there.
In the fourth quarter with just under four minutes to go, D’Qwell Jackson broke up a pass intended for tight end Tyler Eifert. The pass looked to be ready to hit the ground when Skrine lunged for it, grabbing the pass for his first interception of the season, seemingly sewing up the Browns victory. As if that wasn’t enough, he also broke up the last Bengals pass attempt of the game as well, leading to a turnover on downs. Jackson hoisted Skrine up onto his shoulders as if he had just won Superbowl MVP, and for the beleaguered underdog corner, it was a well deserved celebration.
Time will tell if Skrine is the answer at the second cornerback position or not, and it is very likely the team will still address the position in the offseason, but for now Skrine is making a very welcomed impact for Cleveland. It isn’t often that an undersized small-school player can come out and compete with the NFL elite, but Skrine is out to make a name for himself and prove all of his doubters wrong. If the early results on the field are any indication, it’s a safe bet to say that Skrine has surpassed all expectations and earned his place in the NFL.
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