Now Browns cornerback Leon McFadden knows how Buster Skrine feels. The Browns’ former regime drafted McFadden in the third round out of San Diego State in 2013 to challenge cornerback Skrine. A groin injury in training camp kept McFadden from challenging Skrine. He missed the first two preseason games in 2013 before returning in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. Before camp, many expected McFadden to start opposite Pro Bowler Joe Haden. Instead, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound McFadden found himself playing in nickel situations as fourth cornerback. Things don’t get easier for him now that he’s healthy. A new coaching staff brings McFadden another opportunity to distinguish himself but another draft brings more competition. The Browns bolstered their cornerback position by drafting Justin Gilbert with the eighth pick of the first round in this year’s draft. Gilbert has the speed and size to start in the NFL. The Browns didn’t stop there, selecting Pierre Desir, a 6-foot-2, 206-pound cornerback out of Division II Lindenwood, who had 25 interceptions during his college career and is viewed as a potential steal for a fourth-round draft choice. If that were not enough, the Browns signed a number of defensive backs to create competition for slots, including former New York Jets cornerback Aaron Berry. But that’s OK, McFadden said on the final day of the team’s recent mandatory minicamp. “I just took it as motivation and competition,” McFadden said of the additions. “It’s a lot of good DBs out here. The coaches said it: Our whole room is competitive, so it’s going to push each of us to be better and to be at our best at all times.” Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil’s defensive scheme retains the same attacking mindset the Browns used last year. O’Neil said during recent interviews that the expectation is that the team’s defense will intimidate. He wants it to be a reputation they cultivate and embrace. Although McFadden worked his way into one defensive set about midway through last season, there are still questions related to his coverage skills. In other words, there’s plenty to prove. Dealing with a new defense — the second in two seasons — also offers challenges. “The game isn’t slow [yet],” he said. “It’s still fast, but I’m reading things a lot better than in my rookie year in my transition from college. The NFL is a lot faster. It comes down to your technique. It’s the best of the best and everything is so fast that you have to be on your P’s and Q’s all the time.” There’s a decided advantage for McFadden knowing that the entire defense is starting from scratch. Some of the Browns’ defensive backs might pick up the new schemes faster than others, but he’s confident that he’s making progress. “Once everybody picks it up, everybody will play as fast as they can,” he said. McFadden said he loves the defense’s attacking style and, with it, he expects that the Browns will be able to close out games when needed this season. The best part is that he’s holding his own in the new scheme even with the increased competition.
Browns’ Leon McFadden prepares for battle at cornerback
Akron Beacon Journal | Jun 22