Buster Skrine easily rates as biggest Bears defensive personnel question

Gene Chamberlain

Depending upon who is asked, Buster Skrine is either exactly the kind of player the Bears needed to replace Bryce Callahan or he's the undoing of their defense.

Coach Matt Nagy would say the fit is perfect.

Many Jets fans would laugh, mockingly. Then again, many Jets fans mock their own mothers.

Skrine is really the biggest question mark on the Bears defense in terms of manpower, since safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been proven as a Pro Bowl player in the past.

Pro Football Focus gave Callahan a 78.9 passer rating against last year, while Skrine's was 124.2. Another player analytic site, playerprofiler.com, put it at 85.5 allowed for Callahan and 116.8 for Skrine.

Either way, neither is a very good comparison for the Bears. The numbers can be deceiving, though.

The real problem for Skrine has been penalties. And it's here where the difference between Skrine and some other players becomes apparent.

Skrine's 78 career penalties have not always been the result of being a poor player. Rather, they sometimes result from having too much asked of him in poorly manned defenses.

Also, he has made it a point to try to cut down on penalties. He had seven last year, one less than Prince Amukamara had for the Bears.

"I'm an aggressive player," Skrine said earlier this offseason. "Every team I've played on we've played majority man (coverage). So I get up and I press almost every down so if you watch me play, if I do get a penalty, it doesn't bother me, but it will bother me if it hurts the team.

"I mean, you play the game, I had my least amount of penalties last year so I feel like I got better in that area."

Skrine's tackle numbers and passes defensed might speak louder than his stats for passer rating.

He had to make 222 tackles the last four seasons, while Callahan had to make only 122 for the Bears. Skrine had 30 passes defensed, while Callahan had 10 fewer playing mostly zone and not man.

More was asked of Skrine than Callahan had to do. Now Skrine will have help and there will be less man-to-man coverage, or at least it would seem that way if the defense retains much of what Vic Fangio had them doing.

So the Bears will enter the season wondering what Skrine can do in a different system with a strong defense.

They have an insurance policy in Sherrick McManis and another in rookie project Duke Shelley.

They'd prefer to lean on Skrine and not the alternative.