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McFadden earns trust, playing time

Posted Dec 7, 2013

Cleveland Browns defensive back Leon McFadden has earned the trust of the coaching staff and will see more playing time as a result.

Cleveland Browns defensive back Leon McFadden had to earn the trust and belief of the coaching staff before getting more scrimmage snaps.

Early in his career with the Browns, the first-year defensive back battled through injuries in training camp that cost him a chance to compete with Buster Skrine and Chris Owens for a spot in the starting lineup. Then, he had to show his athleticism on special teams before getting on the field as part of the defense.

With a knee sprain forcing Owens to the injured reserve list, McFadden plans on seizing the opportunities he gets to be on the field.

“I want to take full advantage of those (snaps) and do whatever I can do to help the team progress in the direction we want (to go),” McFadden said earlier in the week. “Whatever scheme we roll with, wherever I fit in, that’s where I’m going to play.

“The next four weeks I want to compete at the highest level.”

McFadden said he believes that he has “definitely progressed” and improved on “reading the three-step drop” since the start of the season. As a result, he has rotated into the defense as a safety in the dime packages over the last few weeks.

“I got extra reps in practice and worked on technique and studying film and understanding the whole scheme of the defense,” McFadden said. “It’s helped a lot. The more you know, the longer you will last in the league and that’s what they keep saying. Being put in different positions and fitting in the scheme, I’m there taking advantage of all opportunities.

“Reading the three-step, that’s something I didn't do in college, something I just did in the NFL.”

According to defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the key to McFadden earning more playing time was “trust and accountability.”

“I believe you’re accountable to your teammates and I have to be able to trust you,” Horton said. “He has that now. He has my trust to go into a game. He’s prepared hard. He’s worked hard on the field, and he’s earned his chance to play. He is one of our starters-in-waiting, and he’ll play for us, and I expect him to do well.”

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski added, “McFadden has been playing more and more in recent weeks. He’s earned that opportunity. Just going back to training camp, he was injured an awful lot and fell behind. He’s been able to catch up, and he’s really earned the opportunities that he’s gotten. Every week, he’s gotten more. It’ll be a good opportunity for him. I feel good about his progress and how he’s come along.”

McFadden having to earn his playing time is the way Horton believes players should begin their careers.

“Most organizations, Pittsburgh and New England, try to (bring guys along),” Horton said. “Really, when you base a winning franchise on something, it’s probably a system. The players come in and you try to get players that match your system. You try to get good, smart players that are somewhat interchangeable because at some point, somebody’s going to get hurt or they’re going to graduate to another team or retirement.

“That’s the lifeblood of your team, getting good, young players to come in and play. Is it hard for certain positions because of what it takes to play mentally or physically? It can be, and I believe defensive back is because if you make a mistake, it’s always points or yards. For me, it’s a very critical position to be trusted and accountable, and he’s earned that now, and that’s why he’s earned the right to play.”