You Won't Believe What Joe Haden Plans on Doing to Receivers in 2014

June 13, 2014

Joe Haden

Joe Haden isn’t just talking. He’s raving.

A mile-wide grin lights up his face as he thrusts his right fist into the open palm of his left hand with excitement. In the equipment room at the Cleveland Browns' headquarters in Berea, Ohio, the All-Pro cornerback, dressed in his post-practice garb of a Nike zip-up, black shorts stretching past his knees and Air Jordan sandals, has trouble containing his love for the team’s upgraded secondary.

“[Gilbert,] Desir, Trufant, Skrine,” he says, rattling off the last names of his defensive backfield brethren. “They can all play. We’ve really got no holes.”

It’s early June, and the Browns are wrapping up Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the second-to-last week of work before they break until training camp opens in late July. Since the team’s return to the league in 1999, early summer has been the best time of year for both Browns fans and players—the team hasn’t lost a game yet, its coach hasn’t been fired and its quarterback situation (a recurring source of despair) is looking up for the first time in years.

But it’s the team’s moves in the secondary that has Haden so excited. The Browns replaced safety T.J. Ward, who left via free agency, with Donte Whitner, who spent the last few years competing for championships with the 49ers. They drafted Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick in May's NFL Draft, then nabbed another, Pierre Desir, in the third round. Include returning vet Buster Skrine and off-season signee Isaiah Trufant, and you have a crew that’s calling itself the “Lock Down on the Lake,” referring to Lake Erie, just north of their home turf at First Energy Stadium.

At just 25 years old, Haden is the leader of the bunch. He’s been in Cleveland for all five years of his pro career, and he's coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, having earned a coveted reputation as a “shutdown corner,” an honor bestowed only upon top-tier defenders like Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who routinely cover their opponent’s best wide receiver. According to Pro Football Focus, Haden covered the opposing team’s No. 1 pass catcher on 65 percent of plays in 2013, more than both Peterson (55 percent) and Sherman (27 percent). Haden didn’t allow a single receiver to gain 100 yards on him last season, and he gave up just six touchdowns all year while covering guys like Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown and A.J. Green (twice).

But despite his individual greatness, Haden does not yet have a playoff appearance on his résumé. He’s striving to make 2014 the year the Browns finally get near the top of the endless staircase they’ve been climbing in the hopes of returning to relevance. To help his team get there, Haden has set a lofty goal: limit every opposing receiver he faces to 55 yards or less per game.

“That’s my personal goal. No matter who it is, whoever I follow, I keep under 55 yards,” he said.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, Haden has changed his off-the-field regimen. As a rookie, the defensive back from the University of Florida showed up daily at the facility, played football and went home. No stretching, no cold tubs, no nothing. But he’s older now and a veteran of the game, so that’s all changed.

“I was used to going out there and playing football and going home,” Haden said. “Now I stretch, get a massage every week, and get in the hot tub and cold tubs. I do a lot of things, like taking care of my legs, that I didn’t do as a rookie. Your job is your body.”

Haden's other focus this season is to improve his footwork, allowing him to shadow even the quickest, most elusive receivers, like Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Browns will face in Week 1 (and Week 6), or T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, a Week 14 foe. He’s so committed that he strolls around his home moving his feet as he would during practice.

“I do a lot of footwork drills," Haden said. "Even walking around the house, I take two steps back and two forward, practicing making sure I put my whole foot in the ground during my breaks.”

A drill Haden favors, one that teaches him to explode out of his break, is the “W-Drill.”

Joe Haden's W-Drill

  • Set up five cones in the shape of a W, with the cones 5 yards apart.
  • Start at the first cone with your back turned to the second.
  • Backpedal to Cone 2.
  • Explode at a 45-degree angle to Cone 3.
  • Repeat the move from Cone 4 to Cone 5.
  • The goal of the drill is to increase agility and reaction time for a defensive back coming out of his break.
Learn the W-Drill by watching Devin and Jason McCourty perform it.

“You don’t ever waste a step,” Haden said. “Once you put that clamp foot down, the next step is going to where you need to go.”

Haden’s jubilance dissipates as the day winds down. With OTAs done for the day, many players have gone home, and the locker room is silent. For Haden, "silence" is the perfect word for what he hopes to do to receivers this year to help the Browns finally make some noise in the playoffs.

Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...
Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...

Featured Videos

Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 588,664
Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Views: 241,761
Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Views: 284,490
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,844
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,151,981
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,164
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,099,366
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,009,040

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Softball Pitchers: How to Play Your Best Over a Complete Season

Softball Pitchers: How to Play Your Best Over a Complete Season

The elite softball pitchers plan on leading their teams to a post season and they know and understand what it takes to get there. There are several...

Basketball Shooting Technique: How to Shoot a Floater

Basketball Shooting Technique: How to Shoot a Floater

How to Improve Your Basketball Skills in the Weight Room

How to Improve Your Basketball Skills in the Weight Room

Drills for a Better Pole Vault Swing

Drills for a Better Pole Vault Swing

Improve Your Jump Shot with Core Strength

Improve Your Jump Shot with Core Strength

Basketball Speed Drills for Offense

Basketball Speed Drills for Offense

Never Fumble Again: How to Carry a Football

Never Fumble Again: How to Carry a Football

4 Tips to Become a Better Softball Pitcher

4 Tips to Become a Better Softball Pitcher

How Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher Chris Archer Got in All-Star Shape

How Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher Chris Archer Got in All-Star Shape

3 Secrets of the NBA's Best Shooters

3 Secrets of the NBA's Best Shooters

10 Essential Point Guard Drills From Skylar Diggins

10 Essential Point Guard Drills From Skylar Diggins

Train for Hockey Off the Ice This Summer

Train for Hockey Off the Ice This Summer

Winter Soccer Workout to Improve Ball Handling

Winter Soccer Workout to Improve Ball Handling

5 Drills to Improve Your Soccer Dribbling Skills

5 Drills to Improve Your Soccer Dribbling Skills

'Squash the Bug' and Other Softball Batting Tips That Don't Work

'Squash the Bug' and Other Softball Batting Tips That Don't Work

How Stephen Curry Became the Best Shooter in the NBA

How Stephen Curry Became the Best Shooter in the NBA

2 Drills to Help You Play Lockdown Basketball Defense

2 Drills to Help You Play Lockdown Basketball Defense

Boost Your Fastball With This Weighted Baseball Workout

Boost Your Fastball With This Weighted Baseball Workout

Improve Your Basketball Passes With Med Ball Exercises

Improve Your Basketball Passes With Med Ball Exercises

The Football Route Tree, Explained

The Football Route Tree, Explained

WATCH: 5 Post Moves From Nerlens Noel

WATCH: 5 Post Moves From Nerlens Noel

3 Things You Are Doing Wrong In Your Basketball Training

3 Things You Are Doing Wrong In Your Basketball Training

How to Create a Killer Crossover Without a Basketball

How to Create a Killer Crossover Without a Basketball

How to Shoot a Basketball Better

How to Shoot a Basketball Better

Teach the Layup with the Two-Step Drill

Teach the Layup with the Two-Step Drill

Why Basketball Players Must Improve Their Weak Hand

Why Basketball Players Must Improve Their Weak Hand

How to Dribble a Basketball

How to Dribble a Basketball

4 Soccer Drills to Shoot Better While on the Move

4 Soccer Drills to Shoot Better While on the Move

Become a Better Baserunner With This Agility Drill

Become a Better Baserunner With This Agility Drill

Build a Better Layup With These Basketball Speed Drills

Build a Better Layup With These Basketball Speed Drills

10 Tips Every AAU Player Must Know

10 Tips Every AAU Player Must Know

3 Steps to Better In-Game Baseball Hitting

3 Steps to Better In-Game Baseball Hitting

Why You Shouldn't Specialize in One Sport Too Soon

Why You Shouldn't Specialize in One Sport Too Soon

4 Tips for Coaching Low-Velocity Softball Pitchers

4 Tips for Coaching Low-Velocity Softball Pitchers

The 4 Fundamentals of Hitting a Baseball

The 4 Fundamentals of Hitting a Baseball

Success With Health: How Trevor Bauer Increased His Velocity

Success With Health: How Trevor Bauer Increased His Velocity

Learn to Shoot a Basketball with the BEEF Method

Learn to Shoot a Basketball with the BEEF Method

How QB Ryan Tannehill Beats the Blitz

How QB Ryan Tannehill Beats the Blitz

Drive Defenders Crazy With These Super Moves from NBA Legends

Drive Defenders Crazy With These Super Moves from NBA Legends

How Ryan Mathews Returned to Highlight Reel Status

How Ryan Mathews Returned to Highlight Reel Status

Learn from Steph Curry: Stay the Course to Beat the Defense

Learn from Steph Curry: Stay the Course to Beat the Defense

YardBarker