Joe Haden appeared recharged and refocused Wednesday.
The Pro Bowl cornerback met with reporters for the first time this offseason and said he's feeling confident in the direction of the Browns under first-year coach Hue Jackson.
Haden, who finds himself on the mend after ankle surgery in March, is also confident Cleveland's defensive secondary can improve next season after finishing 22nd in the league against the pass in 2015.
"I think our secondary is a sleeper right now," said Haden, who missed 11 games because of injuries last year, "but I feel like we can be special."
And Haden, who spoke glowingly of the return of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, outlined why he believes that's possible, pointing to his teammates — both veterans and newcomers — and the various array of talents they bring to the table.
"With IC (DB Ibraheim Campbell), people don't really pay attention to him as much. He's a really, really smart player. Like Coach said, we've got (DB Jordan) Poyer, we brought in (DB) Rahim (Moore)," Haden said.
"It's just opportunities and competition, and that's going to bring out the best in people with myself, (DBs) Tramon (Williams), Justin Gilbert and K'Waun (Williams). I think K'Waun, honestly, is one of the best nickels in the league, just being able to put hands on people and do his job as far as blitzing and handling the slots."
Of course, the Browns remain a work in progress as they continue offseason workouts and finish their first week of OTAs. Players and coaches are still working to come together and starting jobs are up for grabs. The coaching staff has made it clear that nothing will be handed out.
Against that backdrop, the defensive secondary appears to be a fluid unit — especially after starting safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson parted ways with the team earlier this offseason.
In order to shore up a position group in need of depth, the Browns added eight defensive backs this offseason, including Moore, a former member of the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, draft picks Derrick Kindred and Trey Caldwell and former Miami Dolphin Jamar Taylor.
Haden, who said he doesn't have a timetable for his return but is determined to play in the season opener against Philadelphia, said he's eager to return to his Pro Bowl form next season.
"I've got a really positive attitude. The new coaching staff, coach Hue Jackson – him being here, having faith in me, trusting me and definitely just believing in me knowing the type of player I am, not really feeling like I have to come out and prove to him what I can really do," he said. "Just him having that confidence gives me a lot of confidence in myself and doesn't make me feel like, 'This is a whole new staff. You've got to prove yourself Round 1.' We've played against Cincinnati before. He kind of knows what I can do."
Haden added he's ready to be a leader when it comes to guiding the secondary toward better days.
"I think we're going to be able to surprise a lot of people, No. 1, because we've got a lot to prove. It's just all grind," Haden said.
"We feel like a lot of people are counting us out. That chip is what's going to make us a whole lot better this season."