What Has Cleveland Browns' Eric Wright Done to Lose the No. 1 CB Job?

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2010

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 13:  Eric Wright #24 of the Cleveland Browns makes a fourth quarter interception that he returned 93 yards for a touchdown against Amani Toomer #81 of the New York Giants on October 13, 2008 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 35-14. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On April 2, the Cleveland Browns swung a deal to bring former Pro Bowler and Philadelphia Eagles starting cornerback Sheldon Brown, in an effort to upgrade a secondary that was downright dreadful in 2009.

Brown was expected to be paired with starter Eric Wright, finally giving the Browns two quality cornerbacks and seemingly wiping the position off of the 2010 draft wish list.

However, just a few weeks later on April 22, the Cleveland Browns used the seventh overall pick in the draft to select star cornerback Joe Haden out of Florida.

Members of the national media immediately stated that Haden would compete with current starter Eric Wright for the number two cornerback position.

Wait a second.

When exactly did Wright go from number one to number two?

It is a statement of the national perception of the talent on Cleveland's roster to assume that an aging, if still productive, player would be handed the top job over an incumbent player without taking so much as a single snap in mini-camp.

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Yes, Sheldon Brown is a well-known player with a history of productivity and dependability and yes, he was brought in to start.

However, let's take a look at Wright, a favorite of Browns fans and a virtual unknown to those outside of Cleveland.

Eric Wright played one season as a redshirt freshman for the University of Southern California in 2004. He finished the season as a starter, helping USC win the BCS national championship and was named to the Freshman All Pac-10 first team.

After suspected off-field issues which saw no charges filed, Wright transferred to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he played for one year before declaring early for the NFL draft.

An impressive workout at the NFL combine, which included a 4.36 40-yard dash time, made Wright a highly coveted draft pick.

Had Wright entered the 2007 draft out of USC, instead of UNLV, he likely would have been a consensus early first-round pick. Instead, the Cleveland Browns snatched Wright up in the second round with the 53rd overall pick.

As a rookie, Wright started 13 games and played at a high enough level to warrant the trade of starting CB Leigh Bodden. The trade moved Wright into the top CB position, where he has started all 32 games in the two years since, including a game only two days following a severe car accident.

In three seasons, Eric Wright has 207 total tackles, 38 passes defended and eight interceptions.

By comparison, in those same three seasons, Sheldon Brown has 170 tackles, 43 passes defended and nine interceptions.

There is little difference between the two players' stat sheets, and the numbers certainly offer no reason to push Wright down the depth chart.

On the other side of the argument, Wright hasn't really had much competition for the starting job the past two seasons, playing alongside the likes of Brandon McDonald, Hank Poteat, and Terry Cousin.

While there is an outside chance that Wright could fall down the depth chart in what is essentially a three-player race for two starting spots, the competition may only make him a better player.

Eric Wright is a fast, athletic, smart football player with big-play ability (every Browns fan remembers his 94-yard interception return against the Giants on Monday Night Football) and is approaching what should be his prime playing years.

With three players, two starting CB spots and training camp just a few short weeks away, we should soon find out who will end up where in Cleveland's secondary.

Anything can happen between now and the start of the regular season, but to write one player off as an inferior talent to another without any kind of competition is unwarranted.

Sheldon Brown is an excellent player, who will bring ability, experience and a veteran presence to the CB position, but Wright has more experience with the team.

With Wright being a young productive player and Joe Haden a much-heralded first-round pick, Wright and Haden are likely the future of the Browns secondary.

Training camp is an exciting time for football fans, where questions get sorted out and the best players rise to the top. Browns fans know all too well how underrated some of the best players on the team can be.

Don't get sucked into the big-name game of the NFL, because Eric Wright is No. 1 in Cleveland and the young secondary is just getting started.

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