By his own admission, Joe Haden didn't have the season he wanted. The veteran Browns cornerback played through pair of nagging groin injuries that needed surgery earlier this month to repair the damage.
But new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams views Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler and alternate selection this year, as a key part of Cleveland's defense going forward.
"I just think he's had a couple of tough times right now, I still think he's got gas in the tank, I still think he can play," Williams told 92.3 The Fan on Thursday.
"How you go about doing that is there are no down times of the year. Right now he's got to get ready for the season and so he's going through the rehab process and he and I have already met and talked that when we start the first day of offseason in April, he better be in great shape and when he is he's sending a message to me and everybody else that I'm ready to go and he'll be fine."
Indeed, Haden spoke of attacking his rehab aggressively and returning healthy "because I'm getting my surgery early enough this year that I'm going to be 100 percent by offseason workouts."
Haden, who had ankle surgery last March and spent the offseason working his way back to the field, finished with 48 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions in 13 games.
Williams praised Haden's ability to make plays and said he's coached players with similar skillsets.
"I've been able to morph and scheme techniques and fundamentals to match a lot of different DBs, I see some similar guys I've coached already with him," Williams said.
"But the thing he's very good around? He's good around the ball, he can catch the ball, he can make plays on the ball. Some of them can't."
Williams added the seeds of a successful 2017 must be laid now.
"I cant wait to coach him and he's got to do his part on staying healthy," Williams said, "so when he is on the field, he's available and ready to go."