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Competition is 'showing you can play'

Posted Aug 14, 2013

Competition has been abundant in the Cleveland Browns’ secondary throughout training camp.

Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski came into his first training camp with a clean slate, where all of the team’s 53 roster spots were available, and nowhere has that competition been more evident, and relevant, than in the secondary.

The Browns have worked veterans Chris Owens and Buster Skrine in a competition for the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden. That has been a battle Chudzinski has enjoyed watching, both on the field and in the film room.

“Both of those guys have really shown a lot,” Chudzinski said. “I’ve mentioned before that it is not about winning one position; it’s about showing that you can play and we will find a place for you. I am anxious to see him back out on the field, as well as Buster.”

Owens came to the Browns from the Atlanta Falcons through free agency this past offseason. In 59 career games with the Falcons, Owens registered 99 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions 12 passes defended and 27 special-teams stops.

Skrine, now in his third NFL season, and played in all 32 games combined in his first two years. During that time, Skrine registered 83 total tackles, one interception, and 20 stops in special-teams coverage.

“It’s great competition,” Owens said. “Buster is the fastest guy on this team. He’s really fast, really explosive, really competitive, and a smart guy. He’s got a lot of instincts. He’s brought the best out of me, and I’ve brought the best out of him. Whenever you’re on a team, you need that type of stuff. If it wasn’t for that, then, we wouldn’t be a good team. Competitions like that bring the best out of people and make the team better.”

Between the competition and the guidance of defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi, and assistant defensive backs coach, Bobby Babich, Skrine has improved his skills on the practice field. Chudzinski has taken notice of the change in the third-year defensive back’s play.

“He has really improved,” Chudzinski said. “He is a guy that I see that on a daily basis. He has made some plays. He is getting more confident. That is the key. He has confidence in his technique and his ability. Louie Cioffi and Bobby Babich have been doing a great job with him. I think he is playing more confident and he is trusting his technique.

“From his movement standpoint, he has quickness and ability. His technique has gotten better and better. He trusts his techniques where he wouldn’t get into situations, where he would hold.”

GENERATING TURNOVERS

When the Browns switched from the 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive front, they did so with the mission of being aggressive in an effort to generate turnovers and create pressure. Chudzinski knows the safety is a key to the defenses coordinator Ray Horton has led in the past, and expects all defenders to play with the mindset of generating turnovers.

“We would like all of our guys to be able to create turnovers,” Chudzinski said. “That is something we want to do on defense. The safety position is a key in a lot of different ways to get guys lined up, making the right calls and being a play-maker as well. Whether that is from a coverage standpoint or as a run-support defender, I think that is a position where I have seen a lot of guys improve.”

SURGERY FOR HARDESTY

Two days after injuring his thumb in a practice drill, running back Montario Hardesty learned that he would need arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Previously, Hardesty dealt with a hamstring tendon injury in the early part of training camp.

“His knee’s been nagging him for a little bit,” Chudzinski said. “This is unrelated to the hamstring tendon that he had injured, that had kept him out earlier in camp. He is going to have a scope tomorrow on that.

“You have to keep coming back and keep fighting. I think that is the theme we have been talking about a lot. It applies everywhere in this game and he’ll make it back.”