The Cleveland Browns defensive backfield was riddled with injuries in the 2006 season, which led to disruption and numerous personnel changes throughout the season. If there was a silver-lining to the adversity, it would have to be the discovery of a young player with interesting potential.
Cornerback Daven Holly, an unheralded talent prior to landing in Cleveland, played a significant role for the team during the trials and tribulations in the 2006 season. Leading the team with five interceptions, the injury-riddled Browns defense salvaged respectability due to the unexpected contribution coming from the third-year defensive back.
If not for injuries to Daylon McCutcheon, Gary Baxter, and Leigh Bodden, chances are taht Holly would still be a player looking for a team, and certainly not a player that figures to have more than a passing role in 2007.
"I've been the type of person that believes things happen for a reason. When I left Chicago and came to Cleveland, I knew something positive could come from it," Holly told the Orange and Brown Report. "When the opportunity is there, you have to take it and run. I feel badly for the things Gary (Baxter) and eigh (Bodden) have gone through, but getting the chance has made me a better player."
Tried and tested throughout the 2006 season, Holly gained a sense of balance and respect, not only within himself, but with his teammates due to his relentless play and spirited attitude. Despite being released by the San Francisco 49ers, the team which drafted him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, as well as by the Chicago Bears last July, the unexpected opportunity led to the starting lineup in Cleveland.
"I was just one of many guys who got the chance to play in training camp last year", the talented University of Cincinnati cornerback told us. "I felt than I could play at this level, and I knew I needed to make the most of the opportunity," Holly said. "I knew if I practiced hard, worked harder, and played well, I could be in line for a spot on the roster. Initially, I was not thinking about a starting job, but everything fell into place for me to contribute right away."
In his first taste of extended playing time in the National Football League, Holly accounted for himself well despite facing off with many of the best wide receivers in the game. Upon taking over the starting spot opposite Leigh Bodden, due to Baxter's injury, Holly took his lumps, but settled into a groove once he gained experience.
Much like Bodden in the 2005 season, Holly quickly began to rely on his instincts when presented the opportunity to play on a consistent basis. His confidence soared throughout the second half of the 2006 season and he became a playmaker at the cornerback position.
"I learned a lot from Leigh (Bodden), just watching him and talking to him. A year ago he went from a player getting an opportunity to becoming one of the best coverage cornerbacks in the league," Holly said. "I hope to achieve like Leigh, I love playing here (in Cleveland), my teammates are great and I love playing in this defensive system with Mel Tucker (defensive backs coach) and Todd Grantham (defensive coordinator)."
Looking back on what was a successful season personally for Holly, the highlights are plenty, with one game standing out in his mind.
"I love playing in our stadium (Cleveland Browns Stadium), the fans are great, they're loud, and get into the game. There was nothing like the game against the Steelers, when I intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown," Holly added. "That place was rockin', I mean loud. That was a game we never should have let ourselves lose, it was our game, and it was the fans game.
"We'll do better."
Daven Holly means what he says. He is too appreciative of the fans and the game, and he's worked too hard to let it all slip away.