This morning, I named Evan Moore the training camp offensive MVP for the Cleveland Browns, and Colt McCoy the preseason game offensive MVP. Defensively, it was a little more difficult to choose a player for a few reasons. First, with the exception of the defensive line, the defense has been missing several starters on-and-off. Second, it's easier to recognize an offensive player's "big plays" than it is to recognize a defender who is getting the job done.
Training Camp Defensive MVP - CB Joe Haden
I didn't give this award to Joe Haden because of what he did last year. I didn't give it to him because of the great interaction he has had with the Cleveland community. Both of those heightened my expectations for him, but the thing I loved was that in all of the training camp sessions I attended, he looked the part of an elite cornerback. It's just fun to watch him -- he doesn't give the receivers a lot of space, he's not afraid to be aggressive, and when he does get beat a little bit, he has good recovery speed.
There is a reason you haven't heard about Haden intercepting passes in training camp, and it's not because he isn't a ball hawk. The reason a guy like Sheldon Brown has a bunch of interceptions is because the team's quarterbacks are choosing to throw toward his side of the field more often. It's all about what gives them the best opportunity to complete a pass, and Haden has shown the ability to take a receiver away.
Runner-Up: LB D'Qwell Jackson - Jackson has typically had good training camps in the past in terms of making a play on the football, and this year was no different, at least at the start of the season. He has been the leader of the linebacker unit, especially with the other two starters missing action at times.
Preseason Games Defensive MVP - LB D'Qwell Jackson
I couldn't be happier to see linebacker D'Qwell Jackson perform very well over the past two games. Jackson has received some of the "Andra Davis tackle down the field" criticism in the past, but I've seen Jackson shoot through the hole a couple of times to make some nice stops. There was one particular play against the Lions where he was on one side of the field, the running back reversed his field, and Jackson sprinted all the way to the other side for a great hustle play. It was the type of hustle play you'd see Ahtyba Rubin make last year that made him stand out. Jackson is going to be critical to the success of our defense this year, and so far he's playing the part.
Runner-Up: LB Titus Brown - There was some concern about the Browns' depth at linebacker, but Brown has eased some of the concern at middle linebacker. Regarded as a "special teams" player in the past, Brown has shown that he can be an asset at middle linebacker whenever Jackson needs a blow. Brown has also been aggressive when he has seen action, and his alertness when he scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against the Packers now seems less "flukish" when you consider how good he has looked overall.