BEREA: There’s a possibility second-year cornerback Buster Skrine could start for the Browns this season, and he vows to be ready if such a scenario unfolds.
“Every game we’ve played in this preseason, I’ve played with the ones and have done a pretty good job,” Skrine said Tuesday after practice. “I’m always confident in any situation, so I’m ready for it if my name is called.”
Starting cornerback Joe Haden is reportedly in jeopardy of receiving a four-game suspension from the NFL for failing a drug test in the offseason. If Haden misses time and Dimitri Patterson, the team’s top nickel corner, is still sidelined with an injured right ankle, Skrine would be summoned to start.
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron indicated last week that preparing Skrine is a priority. Instead of using Skrine as Patterson’s replacement in nickel packages, Jauron has turned to rookie Trevin Wade to cover the slot receiver because he wants Skrine to gain more experience playing on the outside. Skrine has substituted for Haden and Sheldon Brown, the team’s other starting corner, in each of the Browns’ first two preseason games.
“We’ve got to give Buster a lot of work at corner,” Jauron said. “[We’ll] see what happens as we move along. Buster rotates in some at nickel, but he hasn’t been taking as many snaps because we want to keep developing him outside.”
Skrine, a fifth-round pick in last year’s draft, believes he has made strides since his rookie season partly because his knowledge of Jauron’s system has improved significantly. Last year, the NFL lockout wiped out virtually the entire offseason, so he was forced to learn the defense during a crash-course-style training camp.
“We just kind of got thrown in the fire,” Skrine said. “No excuses, but this year I’ve been able to get in earlier, sit down with my coaches, go over all the coverages and just watch how I played last year. So this year, I can just play a lot faster just because I know the system more.”
Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Skrine is “constantly getting better” during training camp.
“There’s no question Buster can play outside, no question in my mind,” Shurmur said. “I think he has the ability to cover. He’s fast enough to run down when they choose to do so, and he knows how to play the scheme.”
Skrine hopes he gets to show more of what he’s got.
“I’m really eager, and I just want to go out there and just play good Browns football,” he said. “That is aggressive, always getting to the ball and just playing as one big unit.”
Starting left guard Jason Pinkston said his weight has been fluctuating between about 315-318 pounds in recent weeks. It’s about the same weight Pinkston played at last season as a rookie. But Pinkston said he’s made of much more muscle now, and he’s watching his diet.
“I’ve changed it a lot,” Pinkston said. “I’d rather go with baked foods and things like that. A lot more veggies.”
Shurmur is encouraged by the transformation.
“For big guys, sometimes, it’s important that they really have to watch what they eat as opposed to some of the guys that are leaner, where they can eat all day long,” Shurmur said. “I think he’s done a good job of finding whatever that is. There’s still a lot of development that needs to happen there, but the one thing I like about him when he went away in the offseason my last meeting with him I told him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to do everything you can to get your body right,’ and I think he took that to heart. I know I was reinforced by George Warhop, his [offensive line] coach, and it’s not a finished product by any means, but I think he’s made progress there.”
Soon-to-be Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III watched practice Tuesday from the field. He talked to President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert as the action unfolded. He did not address the media.
Haslam, who struck a deal to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner on Aug. 2, plans to attend the team’s first home preseason game Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. During his introductory news conference, Haslam said he was thinking about sitting in the stands instead of the owner’s box during the exhibition home opener.
Josh Cribbs is the Browns’ primary return man, but Shurmur said Skrine and rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin could be used to return punts, too.
“I would expect that you’ll see them from time to time,” he said.
New security measures
Beginning Friday, all fans will be subject to screening with handheld metal detectors as they enter Cleveland Browns Stadium. It’s a new requirement for all NFL stadiums. Fans attending the game are encouraged to arrive early.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.