Joe Haden might be suspended for four games to start the season. Or he might not be. Ahhh certainty, and the lack of it as it pertains to NFL suspensions. Without that, we’d know everything all the time, and therefore we’d oddly feel lost and afraid. The fun is in not knowing, fearing, projecting, and then having said prognostications torn apart because they were woefully incorrect.
It’s good to have you back, football. So good.
Here’s what we know. Haden had Adderall in his system that was found following a routine off-season drug test, and he was suspended for four games. But he appealed his suspension, and a player doesn’t start serving his penalty until a ruling has been issued on an appeal. That’s why during a radio interview earlier today Mike Holmgren confirmed his star cornerback’s suspension, but he also said that he expects Haden to be available this week because a ruling hasn’t trickled down yet.
And he’s maybe, probably right, but as Gregg Rosenthal notes, it’s not out of the ordinary for the league to formally announce a suspension as late as the Tuesday prior to a game. That’s (*checks calendar, checks watch, checks phone, asks dog*) today, so while the odds of a Haden Week 1 benching may be slowly dwindling, sheriff Goodell works in mysterious ways.
Obviously, Haden’s absence will make the Browns’ defense an even more attractive fantasy opponent for those who own the key offensive weapons on the Eagles, Bengals, Bills, and Ravens (Cleveland’s first four opponents). But exactly how attractive? Like, will they be Kelly Kapowski lunchbox picture attractive? Cuz I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
Welp, Haden is only one year removed from a six-interception season, and last year there were seven defenders who had six or better. Kyle Arrington, Eric Weddle, and Charles Woodson tied for the lead with seven, while Brandon Browner, Dashon Goldson, Carlos Rogers, and Corey Webster each had six. The four quarterbacks who could face a Haden-less Browns secondary struggled against teams that trotted out one of those ball hawkers, with one exception.
The exception’s name is Michael Vick, and could be up first, with his Eagles opening their season with a trip to the factory where sadness is manufactured daily. Vick missed games against the Seahawks and Patriots last year, and one of Philly’s two against the Giants, so the sample size of his games against the aforementioned defenders is a bit skewed. However, he had his best yardage total in 2011 against Goldson’s 49ers when he finished with 416 passing yards on nine yards per attempt during a game when he attempted a season-high 46 passes.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton had a very moderate interception total in 2011 for a rookie, finishing with 13. That meant he only had five multiple-interception games, but two of them came against the Niners and Seahawks. That gives you more security and confidence if you decided to load up on running backs and wide receivers in your draft before waiting on Dalton in one of the lower QB tiers.
In Buffalo, Ryan Fitzpatrick was equally woeful against secondaries powered by one of the league’s elite ball hawkers. Over two games against the Patriots and games against the Chargers and Giants, he chucked 10 of his 23 picks. Yeah yeah, he had a bum shoulder, and that may or may not be an acceptable excuse depending on which Fitzpatrick we see early this year, but maybe that’s the underlying point here as far as he’s concerned. With Haden gone, the Browns would present an even cushier early-season landing spot for a QB struggling to regain any confidence whatsoever.
Then there’s Flacco, who averaged 225.6 passing yards per game last year, but against the 49ers and Goldson that number dropped to 161 yards. San Fran’s pass rush wasn’t the root cause either, as Flacco wasn’t sacked that game.