CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns raised plenty of eyebrows around the National Football League when they waived two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden instead of trading the eighth-year professional prior to the fourth preseason game in late August.
And those eyebrows were raised because Haden’s release, followed by the cuts to get down to the 53-man limit ahead of the 2017 regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers meant the Browns had three healthy cornerbacks on their active roster.
Although the Browns faced questions, they have gotten plenty of production from veteran defensive back Jason McCourty.
“No question, Jason has taken up the slack,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He is a pro. He knows Gregg (Williams’) system. He knows what we are trying to accomplish here. He has been great, and again, I’m glad we have him here.”
While McCourty is considered an elder statesman by NFL cornerback standards, the ninth-year defender has registered seven total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in the team’s first two games of the season.
“Jason has done really well,” Jackson said. “Jason is a pro. Not only has he played well, in my opinion, he has been really good in the locker room, really good with his teammates, and I think that was a really good find for us. Jason has done a really good job.”
Wide receiver Kenny Britt added, “He’s a smart player and he’s physical. He can defend plays by himself. He is faster than people think. He is one of the best corners in this league, especially when he is sticking with the best receivers out there.”
Entering his ninth NFL season out of Rutgers University, the 6-foot, 193-pound McCourty registered 505 total tackles, including 418 solo stops, 87 assists and one sack over eight years with the Tennessee Titans, who selected the Nyack, New York native in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Additionally, McCourty intercepted 13 passes, which he returned for 99 yards, defended 73 others and forced seven fumbles.
After missing all but four games in 2015, McCourty returned to the field to make 14 starts in 2016. In those starts, McCourty totaled 69 tackles, 60 of which were solo stops. He defended 12 passes and intercepted two others for the Titans, who finished 9-7 and missed out on winning the AFC South Division Championship and making it to the AFC Playoffs because of a tiebreaker with the Houston Texans.
“I think what he has done is carried the whole organization’s message about what we are trying to do here, on top of those things you just mentioned as far as defense is concerned,” Jackson said.
“He has been a great teammate to our players. He has been really good to players on the field and off the field, on top of making sure that the defense gets more turnovers, too. Like I said, he has been a really good find for us.”