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Cleveland Browns: 4 Ways Joe Haden's Suspension Affects Team's Defense

Benjamin J. BlockCorrespondent IIOctober 14, 2016

Cleveland Browns: 4 Ways Joe Haden's Suspension Affects Team's Defense

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    While Adderall may have helped Joe Haden when he attended classes at the University of Florida, his use of the banned stimulant and subsequent four-game suspension is taking its toll on the Cleveland Browns defense.

    Commissioner Roger Goodell and Haden shared some laughs in 2010 after the Browns announced that Haden would be the seventh overall pick, but nobody's laughing now.

    It was evident that the Browns felt Haden's absence on defense last week as they allowed Andy Dalton to tie a career high and throw three touchdowns in the Bengals' 34-27 win.

    It doesn't get better as the 0-2 Browns play three more games before their superstar cornerback returns. 

    This Sunday they have Buffalo at home, then they're at division rival Baltimore, followed by a trip into MetLife Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

    The Browns will be Haden-less when they face Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning

    Let's take a closer look at how Haden's suspension affects the team's defense.

Cornerback by Committee

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    The Browns are clearly playing musical chairs at cornerback since Haden vacated the position.

    Cleveland hung their hopes on Dimitri Patterson to step up and fill the void, but against the Bengals he didn't look like a guy who just re-signed for $16 million over three years.

    As Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer reported, Patterson didn't sound like the ringing endorsement Browns fans were hoping for in Haden's absence.

    Second-year man Buster Skrine made his first NFL start Sunday in Cincinnati, but couldn't stay with any receivers even if he had been glued to them. He was just part of a secondary that allowed Dalton to carve them up for 318 yards.  

    Wiley veteran Sheldon Brown shot down rumors that he wasn't healthy enough to play last Sunday, he had simply been benched in place of Skrine. Brown is expected to see a significant amount of time against Buffalo this Sunday.

    Patterson, Skrine and Brown don't seem to add up to much, and don't reassure fans that they'll be able to lock down receivers until Haden returns.

    Upcoming receivers like Buffalo's Steve Johnson, Baltimore's Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta and the Giants' Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz should have a field day with this hobbled Browns secondary. 

Impact on Pat Shurmur and Dick Jauron's Defensive Coverages

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    Head coach Pat Shurmur and Defensive Coordinator Dick Jauron must feel like they have drawn the short straw, are stuck on an island or are sinking in quick sand.

    Any analogy for being in a bad situation would define their current state.

    Shurmur could easily be the coach of a 2-0 Browns team, or at the very least, have a 1-1 record at this point in the season.

    When Jauron had the chance to draw up coverages using Haden in Week 1, the Browns caused Michael Vick to throw four picks, one of which was intercepted by Haden himself.

    Without the ability to plug Haden into coverage in Week 2, the Browns defense proved to be overwhelmed enough, and lost by a touchdown. 

    The Browns were in fact better than the Bengals in nearly every offensive category, but a Haden-less secondary hurt them in the end.

    Shurmur and Jauron are going to have to mix and match defensive coverages so the Browns don't fall to 0-5 by the time Haden rejoins the team. 

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line and linebackers got after the quarterback more quickly than ever without Haden last Sunday—sacking Dalton six times.

    It's obvious that they will be rushing and blitzing more frequently over the next three weeks in order to compensate for a secondary that is giving up an average of 300.5 yards so far.

    Defensive end Frostee Rucker indicated to Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal that the Browns can rely on the rotating attack of defensive linemen.

    “The more we’re playing together, the better we are as a unit,” Rucker said. “As the weeks go on, we’ll get stronger.” 

    A fury of pass-rushing defensive linemen is just what Cleveland needs, and fresh legs and constant attacking could mask the deficiencies of the secondary.

Penalties

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    In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Browns defense only committed three penalties for 35 yards.

    In their first game without Haden in Week 2, they committed a total of 10 infractions for 103 yards.

    The day of penalties was highlighted by the offside call on 3rd-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

    In the press conference after the loss, Shurmer said "all the mistakes eat at me a little bit.”

    The lack of Haden's presence clearly caused some teammates to feel the pressure to overachieve in crucial game-changing moments.

    There's something to be said about a team's comfort level when their defensive star is not out on the field.

    The Browns defense is going to have to learn from last week's mistakes, and win at least one of the next three games in order to keep hope alive for the rest of the season.

    In order to do so, they can't have mental mistakes because they are already physically exposed without Haden.

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