BEREA— Having dealt with injuries and inconsistent play, each of which he hasn’t had much experience with in his NFL career, there haven’t been many bright spots this season for Joe Haden.
In fact, he’s been instructed, even forced, to avoid the light as of late.
“I’ve been staying in the dark and trying to let everything settle down,” Haden said. “Right now, I’m just trying to get back right and making sure everything is good.”
Of course, Haden’s been staying away from the light as part of the concussion protocol he’s been a part of over the last two weeks, but it’s a perfect metaphor for the start of Haden’s 2015 campaign.
“It’s super tough, especially when you want to be the best. You want to be the best not only corner, you want to be the best defensive player,” Haden said of his struggles. “I’m just not feeling like I am playing up to my skill level, not feeling like I’m doing what I need to do to help out these other guys, it just gets to me.”
With the concussion and other injuries now behind him, Haden should suit up for the Browns this Sunday and hopes to keep his on-field problems in the past as well.
“I’ve been able to heal up a little bit, had a chance to really look at the film, self-scout, watch myself and see what I’m doing a little off and how I need to work on my game,” Haden said. “I think that was big for me. I am just ready to get back out there, make plays and help us win.”
It’s yet to be determined how Haden will play if he’s takes to the field on Sunday, but Browns head coach Mike Pettine believes that his presence alone should help out the defense.
“If we do get them all back, that would be a big boost for us, Joe especially,” Pettine said. “You don’t just replace that guy. There’s bound to be some form of a drop off and you try to work around it as best you can.”
Though he wouldn’t make an excuse, Pettine said that there were repercussions for the defense without Haden in the lineup and said that he’ll be happy to revert to the way things were when the season began.
“We had to change some things,” Pettine said, when asked about the defensive scheme without Haden. “We’ll be able to highlight some different areas of our inventory, some of the things that we were able before to take advantage of both Joe’s ability and Gipson’s ability.”
Pettine said that things will revert to form, but defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil was a bit more hesitant to say for certain what will become of the defense.
Haden hasn’t yet been confirmed for Sunday’s game, forcing O’Neil to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
“I hope so,” O’Neil said, when asked if Haden would be able to return to his early-season role. “I think that that would be unfair to ask him right off the bat, but if he starts hot, we can definitely get him right back into his normal role. We’re just going to have to see how the game goes.”
In said game, the Browns defensive backs will be tasked with facing a trio of talented wide receivers for Arizona in Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Malcolm Floyd.
Haden said he’s been studying those playmakers and gave quite a scouting report on each.
“With Brown, he's a smaller guy but with his speed and his playmaking ability, you can see it, it jumps out at you on film,” Haden said. Larry is still a crafty vet with amazing hands, so you just gotta play him good and Floyd is a good receiver who likes to make plays, so they have all the capable receivers.”
Not only do the Cardinals have those pass catchers, but they have a resurgent Carson Palmer tossing them the ball, making things that much more difficult for the Browns secondary.
“Palmer is doing a really good job with getting them in the right position,” Haden said. “(He does a good job) putting the ball up there and giving them a chance to make plays.”
No matter the quality of the playmakers that will oppose him this week, for Haden, one thing is certain.
He'll be thrilled to be beneath the bright lights of FirstEnergy Stadium once again.
“Getting ready for that group is going to be a challenge for us,” Haden said, “but I’m happy to be back.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.