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Browns 2012 review: Cornerbacks and safeties

Jan 15, 2013 -- 6:00am

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By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

2012 position review: With all the post-season attention riveted on the Browns’ football operations overhaul, not much has been paid to the players. After the coach and personnel director are found, the roster will get a thorough review. This is the fourth in a periodic series analyzing the Browns’ position groups.

Position: Cornerbacks and safeties.

Players under contract (through year): Johnson Bademosi (2015), Tashaun Gipson (’14), Joe Haden (’14), Eric Hagg (’14), Prince Miller (’13), Buster Skrine (’14), Usama Young (’13), Trevin Wade (’14), T.J. Ward (’13).

Players not under contract: Sheldon Brown, Ray Ventrone,

Total snaps (incl. special teams): Ward, 999; Skrine, 997; Brown, 891; Haden, 878; Young, 686; Gipson, 472; Hagg, 404; Bademosi, 396; Wade, 293; Ventrone, 286; Miller, 10.

Most common starters: Haden, Brown, Young, Ward.

Analysis: From beginning to end, this position was under fire. It started with Haden’s suspension for an offseason positive test for Adderall in Games 2-5. The secondary allowed 10 touchdown receptions in those four games. Overall, the season total of 27 TDs surrendered was second-most (to 29 in 2007) since the Browns returned in 1999 and tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Haden missed a fifth game due to a leg injury. Thus, his third year fell way short of his own expectations. On the other hand, Ward had his finest season in his third year. Though his tackles were down by a whopping 37 from his first year, Ward made more plays and committed fewer penalties. Brown, 33, continued to be a lightning rod for fan criticism, as his lack of speed and quickness accounted for eight penalties, including four illegal contact and three pass interference. But his three interceptions, including one for a TD, were his most in three seasons with the Browns. Nobody, however, was picked on more than Skrine – by fans and quarterbacks. Injuries and Haden’s suspension forced the second-year Skrine into five starts and 10 games as the nickel back. He responded with a secondary-leading 73 tackles and second-best 11 passes defensed. But there were also a team-high 11 penalties, including five for pass interference, and numerous TD catches. The safety position opposite Ward was a huge problem. Hagg was given the job in minicamp and lost it after two games. Young wound up making 13 starts and co-led the team with three interceptions, but he wasn’t the long-term answer.

Bottom line: Haden and Ward form a nice base, but another starting cornerback and free safety are just the start of what’s needed.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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