Browns CB Sheldon Brown has played 10 NFL seasons, and having never missed a regular-season game, he's well aware that Cleveland, which has allowed fewer passing yards per game than any other club to this point of the campaign, still has a "long season ahead," as he noted Wednesday. And such statistics, Brown said, mean little relative to wins and losses.
However, with most of the regular season in the books, it's not too early to like how the Browns' pass defense has played thus far. The group has one of the NFL's rising stars in CB Joe Haden, who plays the ball exceptionally well and has played with good technique, Brown said. The next step for Haden — the one that could lead to more interceptions — is to begin anticipating where the ball is going even earlier, said Brown, who calls Haden a "constant pro."
On the next-to-last play of the Browns' 14-10 win vs. the Jaguars, Haden made an exceptional play to close and knock the ball away from WR Jason Hill, preventing a potential touchdown. The Jaguars, with one play left, elected to throw once again, and QB Blaine Gabbert's pass to WR Mike Thomas fell incomplete.
"We sorted it out very well," Brown said of that final play, noting that every coverage responsibility was carried out as it needed to be and that the Browns had a good grasp of the Jaguars' tendencies.
Brown told PFW that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron's emphasis on avoiding mental mistakes has been a key to the pass defense's soundness this season. Jauron, formerly a safety for the Lions and Bengals and a head coach for stints in Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, commands respect, Brown said.
The Browns' roster and coaching staff reminds Brown somewhat of the Eagles' clubs he played on earlier in his career. In Philadelphia, Brown said, he and Lito Sheppard learned from CBs Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent and S Brian Dawkins.
Today, Brown is the senior member of the Browns' secondary, preferring to lead by example and willing to share what he has learned with players like Haden, who he said was "easy" to want to teach as rookie because of his approach.
At 32, and with 154 regular-season games to his credit, Brown said his preparation and execution of the defense are his edges at this stage of his career.
"I don't have to be as fast as I once was," he said. "I don't have to be as physical as I once was."