Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden has had a problem staying healthy for the better part of two years, and unfortunately for him, the injury bug showed up in the form of soft-tissue injuries to his groin over the last six weeks.
Haden has missed three of the Browns’ seven games this season, including last week’s 31-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but is in line to return to the lineup against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
“It is going to be nice,” Haden said. “I just can’t wait to get back out there and play. That is what it is all about. I have just been working my butt off trying to get back out there with my guys.”
Without Haden, the Browns could not find a way to stop Cincinnati’s potent offense from getting explosive offensive plays, and it came back to haunt them in the form of the 14-point setback, their seventh straight this season and 10th dating back to December of last year.
Factoring in Cincinnati’s three longest touchdowns, 48- and 44-yard passing scores from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receivers A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell, and a 74-yard sprint from running back Jeremy Hill, as well as another 48-yard grab by Green and 40-yard gallop from Hill, those five plays accounted for 254 yards, or 45.4 percent of the Bengals’ offense against the Browns.
Although the Browns had 21- and 28-yard runs and seven pass catchers each have at least a 10-yard reception, they could not match the Bengals, who rushed for 271 yards, one of the top 10 running performances in franchise history, and totaled 559 against Cleveland’s defense.
“We have to play better,” Haden said. “That is just what it is. It comes down to us being able to beat the man across from us. If we have man-to-man coverage, being able to cover these dudes, being able to stay on top, being able to break up passes, being able to try to force turnovers, punching balls out, stripping, we just have to be able to kind of try to create more turnovers and make more plays.
“That is basically what it comes down to at the end of the day. We have a lot of young players, and it is time now for everybody to just start getting into their own, becoming more comfortable and just making plays.”
Although Haden is returning to the lineup with the mindset of helping his team get into the win column for the first time this season, it will not be an easy assignment.
Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall figures to be on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage from Haden, and brings with him 472 yards and two touchdowns on 30 receptions on the season, which gives him 912 catches for 11,745 yards and 81 scores in his career.
“Brandon Marshall is one of the elites,” Haden said. “He has been like that for a while. He is super strong, big and fast, and he is just capable to run every route, catch every ball. Then, (Ryan) Fitzpatrick, definitely he is one of his favorite targets, so he throws it to him very often.
“He is backside on the X, and he just runs basically whatever he wants on the [route] tree, so you have to be ready and have to try to get physical with him and just don’t let him grab you too much.”