BEREA, Ohio--Joe Haden has been counting the days.
The Browns two-time Pro Bowl cornerback hasn't played in a regular season game since Nov. 5, 2015 since suffering a concussion and injuring his ankle against the Arizona Cardinals.
After suffering a setback and another injury to his ankle in the off-season that required surgery, Haden vowed to be ready for the season opener.
True to his word, Haden is slated to start at left cornerback Sunday against the Eagles.
“I’m super excited," Haden said. "All the waiting, all the time last season, I just had a lot of time to think about how I wanted to do it, how I wanted to get back this season. Rehabbing to get ready for the season, it has been a long journey and I’m just excited to play.”
Haden, 27, had a lost season in 2015, playing just five games and finished with 22 tackles, two passes broken up a fumble recovery and no interceptions.
Hue Jackson says he sees the Haden that made the Pro Bowl at practice.
"He looks like Joe," Jackson said. "He looks like the same corner that we used to face all the time and I tried to stay away from because he knows how to get his hands on the ball."
Haden, in his seventh season will be the most experienced player starting for the Browns this week. Five of the 11 defensive players expected to start for the Browns are either in their first or second seasons.
Haden thinks the young players want to prove they belong.
“I just expect us to go out there and go hard," Haden said. "We have been doing a lot of film study, a lot of practice. We have been practicing extremely hard, just doing a lot attention to detail preparing just basically getting myself ready to go out there and perform at a high level.
"I’m super excited about everybody’s preparation," he said. "The way that they came in (Wednesday), already watched the film, already knowing what is going on so when coaches were going up there, everybody already saw what was happening. Just good to be with a young group that is excited to go out there and prove a lot of people wrong.
Haden is familiar with Ray Horton's scheme, after playing for him in 2013.
“We want to have a solid defense," Haden said. "During the preseason, it was a shaky, but now we just understand that the starters are going to be the ones out there playing the entire game. We have to be able to go out there, make plays and execute. We are just going in there grinding. We don’t feel like we in no way, shape or form have arrived.
"We feel like we have a lot of growing to do as a defense, as a secondary together so it is just everybody going in there with that hungry mentality knowing we have a lot to prove," he said. "It just goes into the meeting rooms. It is all about executing so you have to know your job, know your assignment, alignment, technique. Everybody is just ready to go out there and show that we can do a lot better than we did in the preseason.”
Schobert Ready:One of the rookies starting Sunday is OLB Joe Schobert, who was drafted in the fourth-round. Schobert will play opposite of fellow rookie OLB Emmanuel Ogbah.
Schobert feels he's up to the task.
"I think I’m ready," Schobert said. "This week has been amped up in film, watching just kind of getting to know all the ins and outs of what the Eagles are going to try to do us. Obviously, right now, I’m not ready, but we are going to be ready by Sunday.”
The fact that Schobert is starting is a mild upset as second-year OLB Nate Orchard played well down the stretch last season and was expected to be at one of the starting positions.
Schobert said he feels he got better as training camp progressed.
“I think it was a progressive thing over the preseason," he said. "Just knowing my job, coming in as a rookie, you have to know the schematics first. That is the biggest thing. I think I was able to get that down and impress them. They knew that I knew what I was doing on the field. I think that is the biggest thing.”
Hue Takes Exception: Former Ravens coach Brian Billick tweeted that he didn't see a winnable game on the Browns schedule. When told of that, Hue Jackson did a double-take and laughed
“Who said what (laughter)? Wow," Jackson said. "Good for him. I didn’t know he worked here (laughter). I’m just being honest. Nothing to Brian, but I think it is really interesting that everybody can comment on other people’s teams and don’t even understand their inner workings. I have great respect for Brian. He was a great coach in this league. We will see if that’s true. We will see if what he said is true.
"We will look back in 16 games and see if it is right, but I’m not going to get caught up in that," Jackson said. "Obviously, I think you guys know my competitiveness, I don’t want anybody to say we can’t win anything. I just don’t think that is right. I don’t think it is fair. At the same time, I know how hard these guys work, I know what the expectation is and we have to go prove it. Me talking about it is not going to change it. The only thing that is going to change it is what we do on the field.”
Ready to Go: The Browns are as healthy as they've been throughout the preseason with only CB Marcus Burley (groin) sitting out of practice. OL Joe Thomas was back practicing Thursday after resting Wednesday. DB Tramon Williams (toe), WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring) and DB Tracy Howard (hamstring) all practiced.
Switching Numbers: CB Jamar Taylor has taken former Browns CB Justin Gilbert's No. 21. Taylor wore 27 in the preseason.
Long Odds: The betting website Bovada lists the Browns as 150-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. The Browns are tied with the 49ers for the longest odds, who are also at 150-1.