Browns Corners: "They'll Be Sorry"

Cleveland's cornerbacks are ready for opposing quarterbacks to try to go after them. Could Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have careers that map to Minnifield/Dixon?

INSIDE SLANT

The more training camp progresses, the less anxiety the Browns have about their starting cornerback duo of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald. Both are in only their second seasons, and on top of that, McDonald started only two games last season.

"We have a lot of athletic ability," Wright said. "We're ready for the challenge. If guys want to throw at us, they'll be sorry later."

Wright and McDonald remind long-time Browns observers of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, the Browns' starting cornerbacks from 1984-89. The Browns made the playoffs every year from 1985-89.

"They definitely have the attitude of Hanford and Frank," said Kevin Mack, now the Browns assistant director of player programs and a Browns running back from 1985-93. "Both of those guys are aggressive and think they're the best. They definitely remind you of Frank and Hanford.

"Eric and Brandon came in together last year. They could be together here for a long time."

The plan was for McDonald to compete with Daven Holly for a starting job in training camp, but Holly's season ended with a ligament-tearing knee injury May 13. McDonald has seized the opportunity to replace Leigh Bodden, who was traded to the Lions along with a third-round draft choice for Shaun Rogers.

McDonald is more like Minnifield and Wright is more like Dixon. Like Wright, Dixon was a first-round draft choice (1981). The Browns signed Minnifield as a free agent in 1984 when the USFL folded. The Browns projected him as a second-round pick coming out of college, but Minnifield signed with the Chicago Blitz.

McDonald was a fifth-round choice from Memphis. Minnifield walked in in 1984 as though the job belonged to him, and that's the way McDonald has been this training camp.

"Eric has a high confidence level and so do I," McDonald said. "I came in early for OTAs (in May) and I think I caught on pretty quickly. You're out there on an island. If you do get beat, you have to have a short memory and go on to the next play."

McDonald and Wright are listed as 5-foot-10, and that might be generous. In the NFL, they have to go against receivers five or six inches taller.

They get good practice going against 6-foot-3 Braylon Edwards in practice. Edwards is also one of the better leapers in the NFL, but in practice, McDonald and Wright have won their share of battles.

"We have big hearts and tremendous ability," McDonald said. "We make plays the best we can. We go over techniques every day in practice. Sometimes it's not how big or small you are -- it's the position you have on the receiver.

"I was a receiver in high school and junior college. We practice every day going up to catch the ball at the highest point."

McDonald intercepted two passes and broke up 11 in his brief time playing last year. Wright had one pick and 11 break-ups.

Opponents picked on Wright early in the season and then began to probe elsewhere. They will be handing off a lot this season if Wright's boast holds up.


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