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This is the second edition of this series that we'll be doing over the next few months, highlighting game-changing moves that have occurred since the end of last season. The first one was about keeping KR Joshua Cribbs a member of the Browns. This week, considering the events from the draft, it's only fair that we take a look at how it'll act as a game-changer this season.
Game-Changing Offseason Move #2: Back to Back, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward
The Cleveland Browns didn't quite get S Eric Berry in the draft like most fans wanted, but that didn't stop Mike Holmgren and company from addressing the holes in the secondary as soon as possible. With the team's first two picks of the draft, the Browns went with cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward.
I won't get into the specifics of each individual player's abilities -- that'll be coming throughout the next week or so when we take a closer look at each of our draft picks. The game-changing move is that the organization has made a huge commitment to improving the secondary, which has ranked near the bottom of the league off-and-on for a few years now.
Heading into the draft, the Browns had three starters in the secondary penciled in. Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown were the cornerbacks, and Abram Elam would be a safety. With Brodney Pool departing in the offseason to the New York Jets, things would have been gloomy if Mike Adams was named our new starting safety. That's why the hype was so high on Berry, but since we did not get him, I think it's also why the Browns somewhat reached to grab Ward in the second round. Ward's coverage skills are in question, but from the highlight reels I have seen the kid certainly knows how to deliver a hit, and the Browns need people who are the anti-Brandon McDonald when it comes to tackling. I'm still not sold on Elam yet as a premiere safety, but it'll be fun to see how the tandem of Elam and Ward works out this season.
It gets a little fuzzier when you think about where Haden fits into the equation then, since he was the team's first-round pick. I am thrilled that for the first time in years, the Browns appear to be in good shape at the nickel back position. We don't have to worry about a Ralph Brown, Hank Poteat, or Mike Adams getting beat in the slot. And although I appreciated his double duty last season, we don't have to worry as much about throwing a guy like Mike Furrey in on defense, because we have legitimate depth. Being three-deep at cornerback should also help against a team like the Baltimore Ravens this year, who improved their receiving corp. We have the manpower, and hopefully the talent, to match up with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, and Donte Stallworth.
People have been quick to throw McDonald under the bus (me being one of those people), but there's nothing wrong with keeping him on as the fourth defensive back. He might not be a starter, but you don't need the guys that far down on your depth chart to be a starter.
In conclusion, with two important positions filled in the secondary from the draft, how could you not consider them game-changing offseason moves?