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Moving on up

August 19, 2010 - Mike McLain

Rookie cornerback Joe Haden continues ot get considerable playing gtime with the first-team defense, but that doesn't mean he's ready to assume a starter's role.

Coach Eric Mangini said Thursday that Haden's time with the first unit is based more on the minor leg injury suffered by Eric Wright last week. Wright and Sheldon Brown were the starting cornerbacks at the start of camp.

Wright didn't play last Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. It's possible that he'll watch from the sideline Saturday against the St.Louis Rams, which would mean another start for Haden, the seventh overall pick in the draft.

Haden continues ot make strides and will certainly be on the field as a nickel back when the season starts. Assuming Haden doesn't take any steps backwards, he'll likely be a starter before the season ends.

Look for Haden and rookie safety T.J. Ward to get plenty of time against the Rams. Both played three quarters againsyt the Packers, while most first-team players took a seat before halftime.

Mangini wants to give Haden and Ward as much time as possible in preseason because of their lack of reps as rookies. Ward is being counted on to start.

Haden held his own in assignments against Joshua Cribbs Thursday. The lack of speed that former Browns executive Mike Lombardi said was a problem for Haden in offseason workouts hasn't been seen.

Tight end Evan Moore spoke highly of Haden when asked about his speed. "He plays faster than that," Moore said of the 4.5 time Haden clocked at the NFL comhine.




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