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Cornerback: In Skrine We trust


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BEREA, Ohio – Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi spent more time poppin’ tags Sunday than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as the NFL’s thrift shop opened less than 24 hours after roster cut-down day.

Browns’ management claimed six players off waivers, including a pair of running backs Bobby Rainey and Dennis Johnson, as it tries desperately to upgrade talent in advance of the regular-season opener against Miami.

The club is still without a kicker and many observers worry about the quality depth at running back and the prospects of converted tackle Oniel Cousins starting at right guard. All legitimate concerns on a 53-man roster that features 11 undrafted free agents.

But it’s the Browns’ secondary, particularly its dearth of cornerbacks, which remains especially troubling. In a league where three-receiver sets are commonplace the Browns have one reliable, experienced and healthy cornerback in Joe Haden. They have just three others: Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Leon McFadden available – all listed at 5-foot-9.

It’s not a group that inspires much confidence. Granted, many said the same thing about the Indians’ starting rotation in April, but skepticism regarding the secondary is still valid. Coach Rob Chudzinski tried to speak in positive terms regarding his cornerbacks Saturday in announcing Skrine as the starter opposite Haden.

13339694-large.jpgView full sizeThe Browns need free-agent acquisition Chris Owens to stay healthy. He's missed time in preseason with a foot injury.Associated Press

“Again, Chris Owens has done a really nice job in this camp, and we feel like we have two guys we can play, alternate,” Chudzinski said while evaluating his fluid roster. “Obviously, as much as people are in sub-personnel right now, you need three anyhow. So, both those guys are going to be big parts of what we do.”

Owens has missed time twice in training camp with a foot injury. McFadden had two shaky preseason games as he recovers from a groin strain. Skrine, lauded by two coaching staffs for his feistiness, committed a team-high 12 penalties a season ago, tied for fifth-most in the NFL.

While the Browns invested heavily in remaking their defense, they allocated most of their resources to the front seven in keeping with the organization’s desire to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

The decision to draft safety Jamoris Slaughter and his surgically repaired Achilles in the sixth round seemed as puzzling in April as it did Saturday when the Browns cut him. Slaughter could resurface on the team’s practice squad although the emergence of undrafted free agent Josh Aubrey mitigates damage of a potential wasted pick. Some have expressed doubt in the ability of starting free safety Tashaun Gipson, but he hasn’t appeared overmatched in any of his appearances dating to late last season.

It’s the cornerbacks not named Haden that are the real cause for concern.

In fairness, Skrine looked good in training camp and preseason. If he relies on his ability and doesn’t give officials reason to reach in their back pockets because of his aggressiveness against taller receivers the third-year pro could make strides. But memories of the last season’s Dallas game – he was flagged three times -- do not fade quickly.

Owens, meanwhile, has to remain healthy enough to contribute. He was the only cornerback the Browns acquired in free agency before the club drafted McFadden in the third round. McFadden got deep twice in the preseason finale against Chicago after Indianapolis targeted him repeatedly in his NFL debut. The rookie deserves time to adjust before making any harsh judgments, but for now the learning curve looks as steep as the St Louis Arch.

What we don’t know and won’t know until the Dolphins arrive is if Horton’s defensive schemes can alleviate pressure on the cornerbacks. The Browns predictably have not shown much deception or exotic packages – hallmarks of Horton’s defenses – in the preseason. They also have had key personnel in their front seven, Jabaal Sheard (knee), Desmond Bryant (back spasms) Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung), missing time with injury.

If the Browns can effectively pressure the passer the cornerbacks should benefit from hurried throws and rushed decisions. But if quarterbacks get enough time and one-on-one match-ups the team might rue not doing more to upgrade the position.

The Browns didn’t add a cornerback Sunday although there’s still time to do so. With each passing day, however, the league’s second-hand store loses more value.

You can argue the Browns shouldn’t have put themselves in such a position. But right now these last-minute shoppers have nowhere else to spend their money.





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ah hem.


been askin for cbs the last 2 drafts. funny how a dolt like me could figure it out but some six figure n33333 in the FO can't.


man we are thin. but the ratbirds and stools look like they just got off the boat from biafra.

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I'm less worried about corner than the fact we don't have a kicker as yet. I know Don Cockroft hangs out at Browns Backers parties and could fill in in a pinch. Wonder if Olindo Mare is available. If all else fails, they can hold tryouts in the Muni lot before the game Sunday.


Or seriously, they'll probably resign Shayne Graham if nothing better shows up in the next few days.

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any UDFA is better than no kicker at all. I wonder just how many kickers graduated this past year. I would rather see them sign one of those then some retread.

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Corner is still somewhat a concern; however, this FO is banking on an improved Skrine starting opposite Haden which in all actuality, is a nice starting pair IF we see an improved Skrine from last year.


I like Owens subbing in as well as rotating McFadden in all year. Bademosi is also a guy who will play some corner this year, especially around the goalline.


Could be better / Could be worse


I have no concerns with the roster right now, just head scratching about WR right now as there are only 4 on the roster with 2 on the PS. I could see a decent name being added to that group.

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For what it's worth, Sobo has tweeted like 10 times that more than one person within the organization told him throughout the Spring that Buster Skrine would and should start in 2013. He looked that good.


Keep in mind, the last defensive staff said the same thing, that he was a gifted athlete (and one of the fastest players in the league) and would be a starter sooner than later.


It's not something that just happened. Horton clearly looked at Skrine and saw a starting NFL corner.

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Certainly at least compared to his other options....


A good rush will make our 2ndary look better to be sure...


And to my eye we looked better in man coverage this preseason than we did in zone... and given Horton's propensity for blitzing... we will be playing a great deal of man coverage.

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