It’s pretty widely known, though not as widely as the “any given Sunday” theory.
This one is about the defense, and it’s called the “one good cover guy” way of thinking.
Said theory states that one good cover guy is the key to a defense, that with the one good cover guy a defense can allow said guy to cover the opposing team’s best player, thus taking away half the field for the offense. That then allows the defense to mix coverages on the other side of the field, often with an extra player.
The result, in theory: Better defensive play, and more wins.
With the Browns, Joe Haden is that one good cover guy. Haden is not Deion Sanders, Mike Haynes or even Hanford Dixon or Frank Minnifield (yet).
But he is a very good player who is getting better.
And the numbers clearly show Haden’s effect on the defense — and the Browns as they head to Sunday’s game against Baltimore.
In the four games Haden has played, the Browns have given up 17, 24, 17 and six points — 16 per game.
In the four games he was suspended, the Browns gave up 34, 24, 23 and 41 — 30.5 per game.
In the four games he played, the Browns gave up 247.3 yards passing and forced 11 turnovers — almost three per game.
In the four he missed, the defense gave up 274.3 yards passing and forced 5 turnovers, barely more than one a game.
Most important, in the four games Haden played, the Browns are 2-2.
In the four he missed, they were 0-4.
And in the last two games he’s played since his suspension, the Browns have given up 17 and six points, and 173 and 148 yards passing.
The numbers are too stark to be a coincidence.
With Haden, the defense is giving almost half the amount of points and has double the turnovers.
There is not as wide a disparity in yards, but that’s because Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton racked up a lot of fourth quarter passing yard after the Browns had gone ahead by 10.
This isn’t to call Haden a savior. The Browns have given up some long drives with him on the field — 80 and 76 yards to the Colts and 91yards to the Eagles, a drive that lost the opener.
But Haden is a guy who clearly affects the Browns defense.
“It had a positive effect, there’s no doubt,” defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said after Haden returned from his four-game suspension for using Adderall. “Everybody recognizes his talent level, his playmaking ability. I guess to add to all the physical skills, he is tough. There’s a toughness involved there. He’s a willing tackler, he will hit you and that’s a big factor. That really helps us too.”
By the time his career ends, Haden has the chance to achieve some things — if he stays away from certain problems. If he stays with the Browns, his popularity will grow. Witness how Cleveland fans completely forgot Haden’s suspension once he returned, and how he was greeted at the Cavs opener.
Haden had an excellent training camp and appeared on the verge of taking a big step forward this season — until the suspension.
Since he returned, he’s been quiet and professional, and the Browns have used him in a variety of coverages — from shadowing A.J. Green to plain old cover-two to lining up in press coverage before buzzing back into a safety spot against the Chargers.
That is the versatility “one good cover guy” gives a defense.
With Haden as evidence, it’s tough to argue against the theory.