Through the first two practices of the Cleveland Browns’ mandatory minicamp at their Berea training facility, first-year coach Rob Chudzinski has seen players competing at every position, but none more so than at cornerback.
It is in the secondary within defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s scheme that Chudzinski has seen cornerbacks
“That’s the thing about those guys; that’s a competitive group, and you like seeing that from that position,” Chudzinski said. “Everybody has to prove that they can play every day, and that’s the kind of environment we want to create.”
Chudzinski is hoping the environment of competition will continue to push Haden. Despite missing a combined five games last season due to an NFL suspension and an injury, Haden tied for the team lead with three interceptions after not getting a single one in 2011.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Chudzinski said of Haden taking that next step as a player. “Joe has great ability, and so, he’s working to be consistent, to be the same guy day-in and day-out, and I’ve really been pleased with him and his approach.”
Chudzinski has been impressed with the play of third-year Brown Buster Skrine, and four-year NFL veteran Chris Owens, whom the Browns signed in the offseason after his contract expired with the Atlanta Falcons.
Skrine finished third on the team with 73 total tackles, and 65 solo stops, along with 11 passes defended during the 2012 season. He started six games for the Browns last fall.
“Buster’s a scrappy guy,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a hungry guy, and he’s real impressive in the approach he takes to every, single play. He’s done a nice job. He’s got real good feet and speed. He can mirror. It’s just a matter of being confident and consistent with his technique, and as he’s working through it and covering a guy, trusting himself.”
Owens, who signed a one-year contract after registering 17 total tackles and defending four passes for the Falcons last season, has also impressed Chudzinski with his “good feet and mirror skills.”
“(He’s) a competitive guy,” Chudzinski said. “I think Chris, and the type of person he is, is a hungry guy to begin with, and Buster’s the same way. I think those guys are that way. I think they love playing football, regardless of how many years they have on a deal or what their contract is all about.”
GETTING IN GOOD WORK
Before the three-day minicamp, Chudzinski talked about only running plays that were practiced during organized team activities (OTAs), rather than trying to install new parts of the offensive and defensive schemes.
Following Wednesday’s practice, Chudzinski said he was “pleased with the last two days of work.”
“Guys have really come out here playing fast,” Chudzinski said. “We’re just going out there looking for execution, and the guys playing fast, understanding what to do, cutting down on the mental errors from OTAs that we might have had. Today, we focused on the two-minute drills, the red-zone area, and are really getting a lot of good work in those two areas, and we’ll finish up tomorrow.
“From the mental standpoint and installing our systems, offensively, defensively and special teams, I think the guys have gotten a good grasp of what we’re doing. The nuts and bolts, the base things are in, and we’ll just be able to, hopefully, build from there when we get back.”
ON THE FRONT LINES
The Browns have switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, multiple-front defense this offseason, and in watching the defensive line work over the past nine weeks, Chudzinski has gained an appreciation for those players who will be at the point of attack.
“I love that group,” Chudzinski said. “I think (defensive line coach) Joe Cullen’s doing a great job with them. They’re high-energy, high-effort guys. Their individual drill is fun to watch. They’re getting after it, and I love the attitude of that group.”
RUSHING FROM THE OUTSIDE
When the Browns chose to switch from the 4-3 to a 3-4, they moved
“Jabaal’s done a great job,” Chudzinski said. “You look at him making the transition from defensive end to outside backer, he’s understanding the drop concepts and really looks natural.
“Just a guy that’s been around, and has the experience that he has, having a Super Bowl ring, that’s instant credibility and Paul is in a new system with new terminology, but similar type concepts for him. He’s been a good influence being around, especially the younger guys.”
RICHARDSON INJURY UPDATE
According to Browns running back
Despite media reports earlier this week that he would be out of action until early August, Richardson told reporters that he expects to be ready to go at the start of training camp, and that he has been held out of practice by coach Rob Chudzinski for precautionary reasons.
“I still expect to be out there day one,” Richardson said. “People are saying I’ve got another injury. As far as what other people are saying it is, no, it’s not. Coach has me out for precautionary reasons. It’s nothing to worry about. There’s only certain things they can control, and I agree with everything Coach is doing. It’s better for me; it’s better for the team; it’s better for everybody to make sure I’ll be back whenever we start our camp.”