It's been a long time since watching Joe Haden felt like you were really watching Joe Haden. An injury marred 2015 season limited Haden to just five games, and a battle with multiple concussions (which eventually forced Haden to the IR) had the 7th year cornerback getting emotional when speaking publicly about it. 2014 didn't really feel like we were seeing the Haden the shut down corner we'd come to know and love and spot driving his orange Lambo all over Cleveland, either.
So it was refreshing, relieving even, to see Haden dominate in coverage against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, especially against the deep ball. Pro Football Focus gave Haden the highest grade of any player, both offensively and defensively, for a performance that limited Ravens receivers to just four catches (out of nine attempts) for 57 yards. He did give up a touchdown to Mike Wallace, though to be fair, the Browns left Haden on an island on that play when they blitzed and failed to get to Joe Flacco, lallowing Wallace to run an easy slant route to free himself for six.
Early in the first quarter, Haden read Flacco's pass attempt to Steve Smith Sr., jumped the route and picked Flacco off for his first interception since 2014. It was a poor decision from Flacco, who locked on to Smith after a play fake to his running back, but Haden's instincts resulted in a turnover that led directly to a Browns touchdown.
Later on in the first half, Haden almost had his second pick of the day when he matched Ravens deep threat Breshad Perriman step for step on a go route down the right sideline and nearly hauled in the overthrown Flacco pass.
Here again, Haden shadowed Steve Smith to a T on this late second quarter pass, getting his right hand out in front of Smith's body to knock away the pass and have it fall harmlessly to the sideline.
And finally, Haden's best play of the day came on his second interception of Flacco, when the former Florida Gator once again matched Perriman step for step on a route into the end zone, where he leapt in front of Perriman and snagged the ball for another pick. Not only was Haden's timing impeccable, but the way he positioned he body to essentially box out Perriman was textbook.
The Browns are in the midst of what's sure to be another loooooong season, but it bring me a lot of joy to have a healthy, talented Haden back in the fold.