Hanford: Talkin' Secondary

Browns great Hanford Dixon has had a chance to watch the Browns young secondary in camp the last two weeks. Here's what Top Dawg thinks about the young DBs...

Before we get started this week, I'd like to offer my congratulations to Gene Hickerson upon his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Saturday. What a great tribute to a great player. Couldn't happen to a more deserving player who epitomizes what it is to be a Cleveland Brown.

OK, let's get started. This week, the focus is on the Browns' secondary. As we all know, they had all kinds of problems staying healthy last season and assistant coach Mel Tucker did a terrific job under very difficult circumstances.

This season, it's going to be different with the addition of Eric Wright and the remarkable return of Gary Baxter. I'm really excited about this preseason game coming up. Obviously, we're all excited about the kid Eric Wright, the second-round draft pick. I want to see what he can do against some real competition, not just the guys in practice.

He's had a really good training camp so far, but I can't wait to see him bump and run. He reminds me of a kid who used to play for the San Francisco 49ers and moved on later in his career and played for the Browns for a couple of seasons in the mid-1990s. I'm talking about Don Griffin, who played on a couple of 49ers Super Bowl championship teams. These two guys run alike, they stand alike, they cover alike. They just look identical.

Another guy I think is having a great, great camp, who's coming on, who got thrown into the position last year, I'm talking about Daven Holly. He had a couple of interceptions Sunday in practice. I think he's going to help us. He's really going to be able to move in to be that third corner if Baxter can't go.

Boy, what can you say about Gary Baxter? Here's a guy who tore up both knees and just to have him on the field right now is unbelievable. I remember when Gary was in the hospital and I went to visit him after he had his surgery. He and I would sit down and talk and he told me, he predicted, "I'm going to come back. A lot of people doubted me. A lot of people don't believe I'm going to make it back from this thing. But you watch and see." And he has stayed true to his word.

He has worked extremely, extremely hard trying to get back. And still there are some obstacles he's got to get over right now. Just to have him back on the field is un-be-lievable and if we can get him to play back to his capabilities, that will really strengthen that secondary.

I have to admit I had some doubts about him being able to come back this soon. I thought he could probably make it back, but I definitely didn't think he'd be back by the time training camp started. He's got me amazed at the progress he's made.

We gave him a lot of money when he came here. He could have easily packed it in and taken his box of money and just gone home. He didn't do that. He wanted to prove to these fans and this football team that he's here to play football.

Personally, I think he's going to give it everything he's got to get back and be a cornerback. If that's not going to work, I think he'll make the transition to the inside, which I think would be fabulous because when you look at Gary and see how big he is, he's just a presence back there at the free safety or strong safety position.

Let's not forget about Leigh Bodden, who is looking extremely well. We all know Leigh can cover. The problem he's having is staying healthy. What we have to do with him is find a way to keep him on the football field. If we do that, he's got a shot at possibly being an All-Pro cornerback. He knows how to play the position and he plays it extremely well.

Browns fans really have an awful lot to look forward to as far as the secondary is concerned. It has the potential to be pretty good. We've also got those two second-round guys who are doing nothing but getting better. I'm talking about the safeties, Sean Jones and Brodney Pool. Right now, those two guys should be able to see the game a little bit better, understand what's expected of them and know where to be in the Todd Grantham defense. I think the secondary is going to be one our strong points on defense.

Talk to ya next week.

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