A shut down is difficult to accomplish on the sideline. I suppose it’s possible through telepathic powers, but a psychic, Joe Haden is not.
After battling an oblique injury injury all week, the Browns cornerback was a game-time decision today. That decision didn’t go in his favor, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Haden won’t play this afternoon against the Cowboys. That means any lingering decision you had regarding Dez Bryant just became a lot easier.
You were most likely starting Bryant anyway, but it’s quite possible that you had a more appealing matchup on your bench knowing Haden’s shut down abilities, and you were wavering. There’s also Bryant’s wildly inconsistent production to consider, as he’s scored only three touchdowns this year, and since the Cowboys’ Week 5 bye he’s had games with 95, 110, and 87 receiving yards (the good), and games with 14 and 15 receiving yards (the bad).
So you’re forgiven if the frustration surrounding one of the league’s most talented receivers has reached a tipping point. But stop, back away from the computer now, and go take a half hour nap or something before game time. With Haden out, the good Bryant will surely surface.
Consider what a Browns secondary with a healthy Haden has done to top receivers in recent weeks. A week ago both Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith were held to less than 60 receiving yards, while two weeks ago no Chargers receiver had more than 50 yards through the air. But the most impressive performance came against Reggie Wayne in Week 8. The Colts receiver still produced, and he converted on some deep downfield looks, most notably catching a 30-yard pass. But a wideout who’s averaged 103.4 receiving yards per game was held to just 73 yards.
That’s the kind of elite shut down presence that won’t be opposing Bryant today, and for the same reason Miles Austin and Tony Romo also get a boost. If you’re facing any difficult decisions in the final minutes before kickoff regarding those three names, Haden’s absence is your tie breaker.