Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment of a 12-part series in which Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich analyzes players who will vie for starting jobs or other important roles during training camp, which opens to the public Thursday in Berea.
BATTLES OF BEREA: FREE SAFETIES
Players to watch: Johnson Bademosi (6-foot, 200 pounds, second year); Tashaun Gipson (5-11, 205, second year); and Jamoris Slaughter (6-foot, 190, rookie).
2012 stats: Bademosi (16 games played, three tackles, one pass defensed); Gipson (10 games played, including three starts, 29 tackles, one interception, one pass defensed); Slaughter (with Notre Dame — started all three games before suffering a season-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon Sept. 15, eight tackles).
Analysis: Gipson has the edge to win the starting job alongside strong safety T.J. Ward after taking all of the first-team reps during organized team activities and minicamps. He impressed last season as an undrafted rookie when he was healthy — he missed five games with a sprained MCL in his knee and one game with a sprained foot. Now he must hold off two other young, unproven players to seal his status as a starter. Bademosi, who was a special-teams dynamo last season as an undrafted rookie, moved from cornerback to free safety this offseason. He worked with the second-team defense during spring practices, but because he has never played free safety until this year, he has a steep hill to climb to catch Gipson. Slaughter, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, also has a serious obstacle in his way. He missed OTAs and minicamps as he rehabilitated from a ruptured Achilles tendon that forced him to miss most of his final collegiate season and Notre Dame’s run to the BCS National Championship Game. Slaughter said he has been medically cleared to fully participate in camp, though he’ll have several layers of rust to knock off after remaining idle for nearly a year. The Browns used a rotation of players at free safety in each of the past two seasons. Unless Gipson falters, the new regime will likely give him a chance to end that trend.
Coming Tuesday: Wide receivers