Eagles vs. Browns: Does Joe Haden Suspension Really Change Cleveland's Plan?

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Eagles vs. Browns: Does Joe Haden Suspension Really Change Cleveland's Plan?
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Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren spoke to 92.3 The Fan (as reported by Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) on Tuesday morning and said that starting cornerback Joe Haden had already been dealt his four-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall and has filed an appeal.

Though Holmgren mused that perhaps Haden will be available for Sunday's season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, considering the team had yet to be notified by the league that he won't be, the Browns are certainly going to be without his services as early as Week 2.

While losing Haden—a player who appears destined for the Pro Bowl—is going to be painful for the Browns at the crucial early point of the season, it's nothing they weren't preparing for. They knew, for well over a month, that this could come to pass, and they have been planning accordingly ever since.

Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE
With the suspension looming, the Browns had ample time to get Dimitri Patterson ready for spot-starting duties outside.

When Haden is out, Dimitri Patterson, the team's current starting nickel corner, will take over duties outside. As a result, Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade will get time at nickel.

This will be the standard operating procedure for Cleveland's defense (barring successful appeal) from Weeks 2 through 5, when the Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.

That's a particularly rough stretch to be without a player of Haden's skill.

Patterson hasn't been a starter anywhere but in the nickel, which ultimately means he's a downgrade from Haden. Skrine and Wade, especially, looked quite sharp in the preseason, but against the first-team offenses of those four aforementioned teams, they could struggle.

Of course, these things aren't news to the Browns, who have been preparing for this for some time.

The only thing that throws a wrench into their preparations is that they now need to be ready for two scenarios against Philadelphia if indeed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell does choose to rule on Haden's appeal this week. 

Haden, therefore, will need to practice as though he's playing, but Patterson (and, by extension, Skrine and Wade) will have to practice as though he's not. Until a final ruling comes down this week—or doesn't—the Browns are in a state of limbo. 

No matter who is on the field come Sunday and in the weeks that follow, the game plan remains the same: score points, keep the other team from scoring points and prevent as many pass completions and big runs as possible.

It's football, and though it's not as simple in its execution, the Browns' ultimate game plan doesn't change without Haden playing.

 

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