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Haden works to set All-Pro tempo for secondary

Posted Jul 19, 2013

Over the next few weeks, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a look at the 2013 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the defensive backs.

Overview:

When cornerback Joe Haden is on the field, he makes an impact in the Cleveland Browns’ secondary.

Haden played in 11 games last season and finished the year tied for first on the team with three interceptions, one year after not taking away a single pass.

Since the start of the 2010 season, Haden is tied for third in the NFL with 47 pass breakups. Only Tramon Williams (58) and Brandon Carr (51) have more pass breakups than Haden. During that same time period, Haden leads the Browns with nine interceptions.

It is that production, as well as Haden’s enthusiasm for football, that has coach Rob Chudzinski envisioning good things for his fourth-year cornerback.

“That’s what we are hoping for certainly,” Chudzinski said of Haden possibly having an All-Pro season. “Joe has great ability. He is working to be consistent and to be the same guy here day-in and day-out. I’ve really been pleased with him and his approach.”

Key Number:

Fifteen.

Of the Browns’ 29 forced turnovers in 2012, the secondary was directly responsible for the recovery of 15 of them. The cornerbacks and safeties combined to collect 11 of the team’s 17 interceptions and four of 12 fumble recoveries. The secondary also forced four fumbles.

In adding Ray Horton as the Browns’ defensive coordinator in the offseason, they gained a coach whose Arizona Cardinals’ defense led the NFL in passer rating allowed (71.2) and interception percentage (4.4 percent) in 2012. They also finished second in interceptions (22) and fourth in takeaways (33).

“It’s a lot of young men competing for jobs,” Horton said of the competition in the secondary. “You hope, in every situation in every NFL city, that you get competition at positions. I think that’s what we have. We are going to let it settle, however it does, with guys busting their butt, learning the defense and committing to the Cleveland Browns. That is what they are doing right now.”

Players to Watch:

Cornerbacks Chris Owens and Leon McFadden, as well as safeties T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson.

Owens signed a one-year contract with the Browns as a free agent on March 22, after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons. During his career with the Falcons, Owens registered 99 total tackles, including 77 solo stops, one sack, three interceptions and 12 passes defended. He had 13 total tackles and three passes defended in three playoff games.

“He has good feet, good mirror skills and is a competitive guy,” Chudzinski said of Owens. “That’s the thing about that group of corners that I see, those guys are a competitive group. You like seeing that from that position.

“I think Chris himself and the type of person he is, he is a hungry guy to begin with. Buster (Skrine) is the same way. I think those guys are that way regardless. I think they like playing football regardless of how many years they have on a deal or what the contract is all about.”

McFadden, the Browns’ third-round draft pick this year, collected 61 tackles, 12 passes defended and three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, en route to his third straight selection to the first-team All-Mountain West Conference with San Diego State in 2012.

“My size has been questionable for me throughout this process, and I’m going out here trying to prove that I can play amongst the bigger receivers,” McFadden said. “At first, I was thinking too much and learning the playbook instead of just playing ball. I felt like I got things settled down and the playbook’s learned, so I feel very confident about it now.”

Ward registered 68 total tackles and 50 solo stops last season. He registered a sack of Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick in the season-opener against the Eagles and intercepted a pass that he returned for 37 yards against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 16.

In three years with the Browns, Ward has made 211 total tackles, 157 solo stops and 54 assists, collected three interceptions and forced five fumbles.

“He’s a dynamic player,” Horton said. “He’s another guy that has come in and we’ve asked him to do a different role and he has trusted us that we are going to put these guys in the right position, whomever they are, to play quality, winning football.”

Gipson made the Browns as an undrafted free agent and ended the season starting in three of the team’s last six games. He finished the year with 29 total stops, including a career-high eight in a win at Oakland on Dec. 2. He intercepted one pass against the Kansas City Chiefs and set up a 24-yard field goal with the forced turnover.

“He’s come in and he’s taken reps,” Horton said. “He is learning the system and he is playing well. He had a nice interception (during minicamp), showed athleticism. That’s the kind of thing I am talking about. You can name a lot of guys, but you will probably hear the same thing -- we have guys that are competing, playing hard and are trying to learn a new system. What we want to do is be a defense that the Cleveland Browns fans can are excited about.”

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