McFadden enhances opportunity to start

Posted by Vic Carucci on July 20, 2013 – 1:46 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

There isn’t a whole lot of action on rookie arrival day.

The new players essentially walk through a door at the team facility, get checked-in, attend a meeting, have dinner, and call it a night … or at least, when the 11 p.m. curfew hits.

The only thing that made Friday’s Browns rookie arrival a little more interesting was the fact that one of the team’s two top draft choices, cornerback Leon McFadden, signed a four-year contract. He was the next-to-last player to officially join the Browns; Barkevious Mingo, their top pick, still had yet to sign.

But McFadden’s signing was notable for reasons beyond generating a tiny bit of news on an otherwise slow news day.

It assured that the third-rounder from San Diego State will have maximum opportunity to learn and develop as quickly as possible as an NFL cornerback.

And that is particularly important, given that McFadden is a strong candidate to win one of the biggest position battles of training camp, which begins Thursday.

This is not to suggest in the least that it is any less important for Mingo to have maximum opportunity to learn and develop as rapidly as he can as an NFL outside linebacker. But unlike McFadden, Mingo isn’t projected to begin his pro career as a starter. He certainly could, but by all indications, he will serve as a pass-rush specialist while Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard handle the starting left and right outside linebacker spots, respectively.

For now, McFadden looks to be as good as anyone on the roster to secure the starting job opposite Joe Haden.

He is a superb athlete. He is fast. He is physical. He is smart. He is instinctive.

He’s also a rookie, and he will no doubt deal with his share of growing pains. But McFadden’s talent was evident during offseason workouts. He seemed to at least resemble the player the Browns thought he would be when they decided to draft him: someone who was capable of immediately cracking the starting lineup and having a long, successful career.

Of course, McFadden has much more to prove. The pace of training-camp practices is far more accelerated than what he and the other rookies saw during the offseason. Preseason games will present even greater challenges as he encounters receivers with actual NFL experience performing at game speed.

The Browns’ decision-makers, along with the rest of us, will be watching closely to determine if, in fact, McFadden is ready for prime time or if Buster Skrine or Chris Owens would be a better choice to be paired with Haden.

Yet, because of his skills and because he will be on the field from the very start – Saturday’s all-rookie practice at Berea – McFadden has positioned himself well to become an immediate starter.

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