Today, we begin covering our final position in our training camp preview series: cornerback. The Cleveland Browns have ten cornerbacks on the roster, and the four we'll be discussing today include Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, and Leon McFadden.
1. JOE HADEN - NO. 1 STARTING CORNERBACK
Unless the front office really likes a current player, that player isn't going to get a big piece of imagery of himself put up in Berea. The organization really likes Joe Haden -- as do the fans and his teammates.
Wide receivers from opposing teams might not be too fond of his shutdown abilities, though: take a look at this nice piece that Hogs Haven, our Redskins affiliate, wrote about Haden doing a number on Pierre Garcon last season.
The big story surrounding Haden last season was the four-game suspension he served due to taking Adderall during the offseason. Haden's suspension spanned from Weeks 2-5, a stretch in which Cleveland lost all four games. When he returned in Week 6, the Browns won their first game of the season against the Bengals. Haden also missed a Week 11 game to the Cowboys due to an oblique injury. In the 11 games that Haden played in 2012, the Browns had a record of 5-6. Some people may say it was a coincidence, but that's how important Haden is to the Browns' defense -- his ability to be a shut down, No. 1 cornerback helps make all the other players' jobs ten times easier on defense.
Job Security: A+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. BUSTER SKRINE - COMPETING TO BE OTHER STARTING CORNERBACK
Just like the Browns have a three-way battle at free safety, after not re-signing veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown (who is still a free agent), the team is expected to head into camp with a three-way competition for the other starting cornerback position. I am listing Buster Skrine first, purely because he has the longest tenure with Cleveland.
Skrine ended up seeing a ton of action in 2012. He was third on the team in tackles, and tops among cornerbacks. The problem for Skrine is that we've seen two different versions of Skrine: one who is a very competent player in coverage, and one who is a significant liability who draws too many pass interference calls.
The "good Skrine" comes in at nickelback. The "bad Skrine" lines up as a starting cornerback. Therefore, while Skrine is competing to be a starting cornerback in camp, I hope it's not long before he's just considered the favorite to be the nickelback.
Job Security: C
Final Roster Odds: 95%
3. CHRIS OWENS - COMPETING TO BE OTHER STARTING CORNERBACK
During the offseason, fans were clamoring for the Browns to take a chance on Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who was coming off of an injury. The Browns brought Grimes in for a visit, which got everyone excited...and then there was a bit of a buzz kill when we learned that the cornerback Cleveland ended up signing was a different member of the Falcons: Chris Owens.
Here is why it is tough to label Owens as a serious contender for a starting role either: he is only signed to a one-year deal, he has only started 12 games in four years, and he has typically been a nickel cornerback in the NFL.
In Atlanta, it sounded like Owens wasn't liked a whole lot by fans because he was dismal during a 2010 playoff game against the Packers; think of it like when Browns fans turned on Eric Wright when Anquan Boldin schooled him for three touchdowns. Owens was only a part-time cornerback last year and a special teams player, but he has very good speed and athleticism. I think he could end up being a gunner on the Browns' punt coverage unit, and could be the nickelback depending on where the coaching staff puts Skrine.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
4. LEON MCFADDEN - COMPETING TO BE OTHER STARTING CORNERBACK
Could we be seeing big things from Leon McFadden in 2013? Without Skrine and Owens having not received favorable reviews for their past efforts as starting cornerbacks, the competition is certainly open enough for a third-round rookie to slip in and start on opening day.
What is a little bit ironic is that after Browns fans had been hoping for the Browns to sign and start Brent Grimes, NFL.com's pre-draft scouting report on McFadden compared him to one NFL player: it was Grimes.
McFadden won't be at any more of a size disadvantage than his competition; in fact, he has a little more size (in terms of bulk) than both Skrine and Owens. McFadden was praised in scouting reports for his "strength, quickness, attitude, and ball skills." We'll see how well his transition to the NFL goes and if he picks up Ray Horton's defense well enough to leap up the depth chart.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
On Sunday, we will take a look at Trevin Wade and a couple of the undrafted free agent pickups, before capping off the series on Monday. Today's poll asks who you think will start opposite Joe Haden to begin the season.