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Know Thy Enemy: Joe Haden

The first part of a hopefully season-long series.

The Green Bay Packers take on the Cleveland Browns this weekend in their preseason opener. This post will focus on one of the Browns

The Cleveland Browns, following a dismal 2009 season, truly earned the 7th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. With that pick, the Browns selected Joe Haden, a standout cornerback from the University of Florida. Considering the state of Browns CBs in 2008-09 (awful/nonexistent) and the lack of a first round draft pick after the 2008 disaster, Haden's accolades (First Team All-American in 2009) and athleticism (4.43 at Florida's Pro Day) made him a good selection for a position that the Browns badly needed help with.

As it turns out, Haden was better than they expected. While the Browns finished 2010 a disappointing 5-11 with a 1-5 record in AFC North play, Haden finished the year with 18 passes defensed, 6 INTs, 65 tackles, and a sack.

However, the 2010 season didn't start out that well for Haden. He didn't beat out 2008 draft selection Eric Wright instantly, and played primarily nickel corner duties for the first ten weeks of the year. In Cleveland's regular season opener against the Buccaneers, Haden recorded 2 tackles and his first pass breakup of the year, but Tampa Bay's Micheal Spurlock burned Haden for the game-winning touchdown. The next week, Haden recorded 4 tackles, but the Browns again lost a heartbreaker to the Kansas City Chiefs, 16-14.

Against Baltimore in Week 4, Haden recorded another pass breakup and 2 tackles, but the anemic Browns offense sputtered in the face of the fearsome Ravens defense and Cleveland lost yet again, 24-17. But in Week 4, Haden rebounded for 6 tackles and his third pass breakup as the Browns knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. When the Browns took on the Falcons, the rookie corner had just 2 tackles and no pass breakups as the Browns lost 20-10.

Despite the losing (a result of Cleveland's oft-anemic offense, which would be an issue all year long), Haden was still playing well. He recorded his first career interception in the first quarter against the Steelers and returned it 62 yards to set up the first score of the game, a Phil Dawson field goal. After that...things didn't go so well for the Browns, who proceeded to get shredded by Ben Roethlisberger to the tune of 3 touchdowns and 257 yards. While the Browns defense was able to force 9 incompletions, they gave up 16 yards per completion on average. Yikes. In addition to his pick, Joe Haden recorded 2 tackles and a pass breakup in a 28-10 Cleveland loss.

The next week, in the Superdome, Haden made 6 tackles as the Browns (and David Bowens in particular) stunned the New Orleans Saints, 30-17.  After Cleveland's Week 8 Bye, Haden recorded a pass breakup and 3 tackles as the Browns hammered New England 34-14.

But the best was yet to come. In Week 10, Haden picked off Mark Sanchez and added 2 more pass breakups, in addition to 7 tackles, in a 26-20 Browns loss. It would be the first of four straight weeks in which Haden bagged an interception.  The talented young CB seized the starting job from Eric Wright in Week 11 and did not look back.

In Week 11 against the Jaguars, Haden recorded 3 pass breakups, a pick (which he returned 27 yards), and 3 tackles, but it was for naught as the Browns lost despite forcing 6 Jacksonville turnovers on the day. Haden followed his Week 11 effort with another solid game in Week 12; nabbing another interception, breaking up a pass, and making three tackles. The Browns defeated the luckless Carolina Panthers 24-23.

Perhaps Haden's best game of the year came against the Miami Dolphins. The rookie CB grabbed his fifth interception of the year, 6 tackles, and a career-best 4 pass breakups as the Browns won 13-10. The interception was a work of mastery; after Brian Hartline ran past Haden, Chad Henne delivered a floater of a deep pass. Haden caught up to Hartline, jumped and nabbed the ball from right under Hartline's nose.

But after his excellent game against the 'Phins, Haden didn't get a single tackle against the Bills in Week 14, with only one pass breakup keeping him on the stat sheet. The Browns lost 13-6, and fell to 5-8. Haden would go on to record 8 tackles in a Week 15 loss to Cincinnati, a season-high, as the Browns were officially eliminated from the AFC Playoffs, 19-17.

Joe Haden had a solid game against the Baltimore Ravens; forcing a fumble of Joe Flacco on his first career sack and jumping a ball intended for Anquan Boldin for his 6th interception of the year. Haden added a pass breakup and five total tackles in a 20-10 Browns loss, their sixth straight at the hands of the Ravens. In the Browns' season finale, a 41-9 disaster at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Haden finished with 6 tackles and a pass breakup, bringing his total to 18 on the season.

Haden's 6 INTs and 18 pass breakups were both team-bests; no other Brown finished with more than 2 picks and 10 pass breakups, respectively. It's safe to say that Haden had probably the best 2010 season of any Brown on defense.