Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2009: Cornerback Preview (Part 1) - Will Hood Surpass Wright or McDonald?

The anticipation for the start of the 2009 Cleveland Browns season is growing, as we now preview the final position left to be covered -- cornerback. There are eight cornerbacks on the team, so like I've done with a few other positions, I'll be breaking the position down into two parts. Today, in Part 1, we'll take a look at the starters and a few of the veterans Mangini has brought to camp.

1. ERIC WRIGHT - STARTING CORNERBACK

8307_mediumEric Wright (#24)
Height:
5-10
Weight: 190
College: UNLV
Experience: 3 years
Stats: 66 tkls, 3 INT in '08

Finally, I have found a position that I can't bash Romeo Crennel for the way he handled it. He had two young cornerbacks in Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, and both of them saw the field as starters over a few veteran players.

Between the two, Wright seems to have a more secure job than McDonald does. After a good rookie season two years ago, Wright was equally as good last year and even showed the ability to create some turnovers with three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Another reason you have to be excited about Wright is that opposing quarterbacks seemed to throw more to the receiver Wright wasn't covering, something that isn't uncommon when teams feel you are the best corner on the team. This is a unit that held Peyton Manning to without a passing touchdown or very many positive plays. Wright might have had more interception opportunities if teams had not targeted Brandon McDonald when he was struggling and Terry Cousin (or the depleted nickel back position) throughout the year.

Wright might not reach Pro Bowl status, but I think he can reach and even surpass the type of player Leigh Bodden was when he was at his best with the Browns.

Job Security: A
Player Quality: B
Final Roster Odds: 100%


2. BRANDON MCDONALD - STARTING CORNERBACK

8394_mediumBrandon McDonald (#22)
Height:
5-10
Weight: 195
College: Memphis
Experience: 3 years
Stats: 75 tkls, 5 INT in '08

Brandon McDonald had a few really bad games last season after starting the season fine. This led to rumors that he would be benched for a period of time, and they came true when Travis Daniels started one game. That only lasted one play though, as McDonald was back one play later.

Even though McDonald had slightly better numbers than Wright last season, he was not "solid" as consistently as Wright was. There are definitely two sides to the story here.

On one side, you could say that on the plays McDonald was burned on, it wasn't really his fault. The other factors in the equation include the Browns' safeties misreading the plays, or our defensive coordinator calling for McDonald to be in a tough one-on-one situation. On the other side, you can say that the negative plays fall on McDonald's shoulders, exposing the fact that he was nothing more than a former fifth-round draft choice.

I think McDonald really excelled when he was a nickel back, and was manageable with the potential to improve at the cornerback position. Rod Hood might challenge for a starting spot, and if that's the case, I wouldn't mind seeing McDonald slip to No. 3. After all, it's no use having two good cornerbacks only to have teams line up three-four receivers and pick on the backups.

Job Security: B-
Player Quality: C+
Final Roster Odds: 100%


3. RODERICK HOOD - NICKEL / BACKUP CORNERBACK

6654_mediumRoderick Hood (#26)
Height:
5-11
Weight: 198
College: Auburn
Experience: 7 years
Note: Was in Super Bowl

In terms of credentials and current ability, Roderick Hood should be significantly better than the players who have had this role over the past two years -- Ralph Brown and Terry Cousin. Hood is coming over from the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, where he started for two seasons. Last season, Brown was actually the nickel back in the Cardinals' secondary (to his credit, Brown played better with the Cardinals than he did with Cleveland).

I headed over to Revenge of the Birds, our Arizona Cardinals blog, to see what some of their fans had to say back when Hood was released. While fans weren't crushed to see him leave, overall, they enjoyed his stay with the team. The main concern seemed to be his inability to make a play on the ball despite the fact that he was in perfect position:

"He’d be in perfect position but wouldn’t turn his head. I don’t know if he just didn’t have the ball skills to turn his head and find the rock or just didn’t trust himself enough and didn’t want to take his eyes off the receiver. He was very good when he was facing the QB and could drive on the ball but running with a WR and turning and finding the ball was not his strong suit."

Link

Some attributed this to a lot of bad luck, while others deemed it as Hood's weakness. I guess it's something we'll be able to evaluate ourselves in the preseason, isn't it?

Player Quality: B
Final Roster Odds: 100%


4. COREY IVY - VETERAN BACKUP CORNERBACK

5024_mediumCorey Ivy (#35)
Height:
5-9
Weight: 188
College: Oklahoma
Experience: 9 years
Note: Former Raven

Before the Browns' last minute decision to sign Hood, I had Corey Ivy pegged as our nickel back, believing at the time that he would compete with veteran Hank Poteat for the job. Most of you should be familiar with Ivy, as he spent the past three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. It should be noted that he had a pretty high sack total for a backup cornerback with Baltimore; in three seasons with them, he registered 7.5 sacks.

Ivy also brings some starting experience with him, though he isn't in the same class as Hood in that respect. I would put him closer to the league that Cousin was in for us last season. Ivy really isn't physically gifted, but has the experience factor in aggressive defenses. Also, a player of his caliber only becomes an issue if he is on the field too often; as a fourth cornerback or a fill-in elsewhere, he can be an asset.

Over at Baltimore Beatdown, Ivy was often referred to as Corey "I can't cover anybody" Ivy, and they weren't too concerned about finding a replacement for him.

Player Quality: D+
Final Roster Odds: 60%


5. HANK POTEAT - VETERAN BACKUP CORNERBACK

5106_mediumHank Poteat (#23)
Height:
5-10
Weight: 195
College: Pittsburgh
Experience: 9 years
Note: Former Jet

While the ranking above might indicate that I would put Ivy over Hank Poteat, that is far from a sure bet. In fact, heading into camp, they should both have an equal chance at making the roster. Poteat probably even has the edge heading into it, considering he played for Mangini the past three seasons in New York.

A few months ago, John B from Gang Green Nation offered some humorous insight as to what we might expect with Poteat this season:

"Poteat will be cut in camp, resigned before Week 1, cut after Week 5, resigned after Week 7, and spend the rest of the year as a solid nickel."

Poteat has been a veteran backup for the New England Patriots and the Jets over the past four seasons and can also contribute on special teams. Both Ivy and Poteat are entering their ninth NFL seasons.

Player Quality: D+
Final Roster Odds: 60%


Safety Position Quality (Starters / Primary Backups): B-


This season, it's a relief that we're not trying to find a second or third cornerback, but rather a fourth or fifth cornerback. A rotation of Wright, McDonald, and Hood should fill the first three spots, but I only think one player between Ivy and Poteat will remain on the team. Both players are too similar, and it seems beneficial to have a young player available for the fifth spot. That's what Part 2's preview will be about. Although there are only three players left to cover at cornerback -- Gerard Lawson, Coye Francies, and Don Carey, they will be the topic of discussion for our final training camp positional preview piece of the season. Look for that some time on Friday.

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