Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden signed a long-term contract extension in the offseason because he believed in the direction of the team under the guidance of general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.
SPECIAL SECTION: Cleveland Browns
After watching the Browns bring in safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Karlos Dansby through free agency and draft cornerback Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick in May, Haden believes the Browns are ready to compete within the AFC North Division.
"Everybody's happy about the talent on the team, the new coaching staff, what they bring, and the quarterback competition, just having a competition between (Brian) Hoyer and (Johnny) Manziel, solid quarterbacks, competing for the job and just having a lot of talent in a lot of places that is ready to work," Haden said.
"We added some talent, and at the end of the day, we have to work on our finish. That's the only thing. We have the players. We've just got to work at just staying competitive, keeping our edge through the whole game and not letting it slide when we have the lead, being able to make plays at the end of a game. We have the skills."
During the offseason, Haden got a chance to work alongside Whitner in the Browns' secondary, and by playing next to the Cleveland native, who went to three straight NFC Championship games with the San Francisco 49ers, he believes the defense will benefit from that kind of leadership.
"He really, really loves the city," Haden said of Whitner. "He loves being here. He wants to bring a winner here. The thing with Donte that I've really come to understand is he knows the game a lot better than I thought he did.
"He understands route concepts, offensive schemes and what's going on. He sees the bigger picture, and that makes him be in the right position to make a lot of plays. During OTAs and mini-camp, I saw that and that was really, really impressive, just how he understands what they're doing. If he sees a formation, he remembers things. He's a really, really smart football player."
In addition to putting together the concepts, Haden cannot wait for the Browns to put on the full pads for Monday's training camp practice, where he believes the defense will be able to better show their skills, as well as improvement over last year.
"I'm really excited to see our defense run around," Haden said. "We have a really good front seven, and our secondary is the best secondary I've been around since I've been playing football. I'm real excited about that. I think if everyone plays to their ability, plays to their potential, we could have something really special."