Editorís note: This is the seventh and final part of a weeklong series about Browns players who are expected to vie for starting jobs or other important roles during training camp, which opens to the public today in Berea.
BATTLES OF BEREA: DEFENSIVE BACKS
Players to watch: Safeties ó T.J. Ward (5-foot-10, 200 pounds, third year); Eric Hagg (6-1, 205 pounds, second year); and Usama Young (6-0 200 pounds, sixth year). Cornerbacks ó Joe Haden (5-foot-11, 190 pounds, third year); Sheldon Brown (5-10, 200 pounds, 11th year); Dimitri Patterson (5-10, 200 pounds, sixth year); Buster Skrine (5-9, 185 pounds, second year); James Dockery (6-1, 185 pounds, second year); and Trevin Wade (5-10, 190 pounds, rookie).
2011 stats: Ward (38 tackles, including one sack, three passes defensed and one forced fumble); Hagg (10 tackles, one pass defensed, one fumble recovery); Young (66 tackles, one interception, one pass defensed); Haden (65 tackles, one sack, 19 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery); Brown (48 tackles, two INTs 13 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery); Patterson (26 tackles, 12 passes defensed); Skrine (10 tackles, one INT, two passes defensed); Dockery (no defensive stats); and Wade (at University of Arizona ó 52 tackles, two INTs, 13 passes defensed, one forced fumble).
Analysis: After ending the season on injured reserve with a sprained right foot, Ward returns as the starting strong safety. Hagg and Young will vie to start alongside Ward at free safety. Hagg, a seventh-round pick in 2011, has the early advantage. He practiced with the first-team defense throughout organized team activities and minicamp, and Young worked with the second unit. Haden is entrenched as a starter, but the other starting cornerback job is less certain. Brown will try to retain his starting spot in his 11th NFL season. But Dimitri Patterson, who performed well as a nickel corner last season and signed a three-year deal reportedly worth $16 million in March, also will be considered for a starting role, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said in June. Skrine played in dime packages last season, and heíll fight for more playing time. Dockery and Wade will battle to make the team as special-teams contributors.
Ulrichís take: The coaches are happy with Hagg, so the starting free safety job is his to lose. Last season, Young rotated at free safety with Mike Adams, who signed with the Denver Broncos in March. Still, Young never captured a starting role, and I donít see it happening this year if Hagg stays healthy. Meanwhile, Jauron will give Brown, 33, plenty of chances to keep his starting job. So donít be surprised if Brown begins the season as a starter while Patterson is kept on standby.