Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes what he has seen from fourth-year defensive back
By spending three seasons in the AFC North Division, Haden has gotten to compete against Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers in former Baltimore standouts Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans, as well as one-time Pittsburgh Steelers wideout, Mike Wallace.
Horton feels Haden has benefitted from facing off against that type of competition.
“There was a fantastic play against Pittsburgh where Mike Wallace was running on the post and Joe was just stride for stride,” Horton said. “You know he can run; you know he can catch. I was pleasantly surprised to watch how he tackled. To me, he’s got complete-package ability.
“What I want him to be is one of the elite corners in the league. I want people to say, ‘Wow, Joe Haden is one of the top corners in the league. That’s what I want from him and I’m challenging him not to just be this great athlete, but to be this great player. We’re going to challenge him because he’s one of our better players.”
Despite missing five games in 2012, four due to a league-mandated suspension and one because of an injury, Haden finished the year with 51 total tackles, including 40 solo stops, and three interceptions. His three takeaways tied for the most on the team, which was the second time in his three NFL seasons that Haden had at least a share of the Browns’ interceptions lead.
In his career, Haden has intercepted nine passes and broken up 47. The seventh overall pick in 2010, Haden, and Kansas City defensive back Brandon Flowers, have broken up the third-most passes in the NFL, behind Tramon Williams (Green Bay) and Brandon Carr (Dallas).
“I remember working Joe out at the University of Florida when he came out, and he was a fantastic talent, with speed and hands, fantastic family and character when I met him down there,” Horton said. “You come up here and watch film and it’s the same thing. He can play the ball; he can catch the ball, which is becoming, I think, the No. 1 prerequisite of a defensive back. It used to be that you had to be tough and tackle. Well, the game’s become a passing game. You’ve got to be able to catch the ball and he can.”
By evaluating the game film, Horton found that Haden’s personality and impact are contagious, especially with his 2010 draft classmate, safety, T.J. Ward.
“When (Joe) came in here, he smiles a lot,” Horton said. “You know he loves football and what’s going on.
“It’s the same with T.J. When T.J. missed some games, you missed a little bit of the fire ability, the ‘Wow,’ splash plays. He’s another guy that I think loves to play football. It’s a good mix of doing some creative things with explosive athletes and some good players.”