Cleveland Browns Rookie Leon McFadden Ready For Increased Role Against Miami Dolphins

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Updated: September 7, 2013
Photo via Cleveland.com

Photo via Cleveland.com

After a back-and-forth camp battle with Chris Owens, it was determined that Buster Skrine would get the nod at the second cornerback position opposite of Joe Haden. While being victimized last season by what seemed like every starting quarterback in the NFL, Skrine has shown considerable improvement over the offseason, and he appeared to be making large strides toward being an every-down cornerback. Unfortunately, after suffering an injury at Thursday’s practice, now it looks like Skrine could be missing the first game of the season against the Miami Dolphins entirely.

“It’s next man up,” Haden said. “We’re gonna have to figure out a way to make it happen. Buster, he’s been working real hard, that’ll be a big setback for him, as far as our defense is concerned. It’s next man up and we have to do what we got to do.”

In his place will be Owens, who was expected to play the nickel role this season. Owens has had his share of injuries so far, limiting his snaps and ability to take control of the starting position. In his limited action, he has played consistently with a physical style to his game that keeps receivers honest. His veteran savvy has shown up in a big way, with his confidence brimming every time he is on the field. During his four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Owens compiled 126 tackles, a sack, 12 passes defended, three interceptions and a forced fumble. His task will be stopping highly underrated Miami wideout, Brian Hartline.

It is expected that Owens can handle his role, but the big question is, will rookie cornerback Leon McFadden be up to the challenge? Having struggled in the preseason, McFadden will be expected to cover the taller, faster and more experienced, Brandon Gibson. With 174 career receptions and 2,090 yards, Gibson has flashed big-play potential during his time with the St. Louis Rams, and he is coming off a career year. It will be a big-time test for the young rookie, but McFadden thinks he is up for the challenge, and feels that he has learned from his preseason miscues.

“I just take whatever mistakes I had on film, I take those and correct them,” McFadden said. “That’s what I’ve been doing in practice. So I don’t have none of those errors anymore…It came down to technique, and that’s something that I’m honing in on and working on every day. I’m a lot more confident now. I got my feet wet and I’m excited to play now.”

McFadden was taken in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of San Diego State. In his final season at SDSU, McFadden had a career season, totaling 61 tackles with 12 passes broken up and three interceptions. At just 22-years of age, McFadden is one of the youngest players on the roster, but he will be thrown into the fire on Sunday regardless of age and experience. Quite simply, there is nobody else available, aside from converted-safety Johnson Bademosi.

The Browns young corner will be asked to grow up in a hurry on Sunday afternoon if Skrine can’t go. While it hasn’t been determined the severity of Skrine’s shoulder injury, it is still expected that a healthy McFadden will see more playing time whether he starts in the nickel or not. Expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to test Owens and McFadden early and often, so you will see a heavy dose of the Browns third-round rookie in a few days, for better or worse.

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