Two positions to watch in Cleveland are free safety and defensive tackle. Eric Hagg and Usama Young are the primary FS contenders, with neither having an edge right now, the way we hear it. Young made eight starts last season at strong safety after T.J. Ward exited with a foot injury, while Hagg appeared in 10 games as a reserve. Both Hagg (6-1, 205) and Young (6-0, 200) move well; Young entered the NFL as a cornerback, and Hagg played nickelback at Nebraska and got a look at cornerback at the 2011 Senior Bowl. Ward, a physical presence on the back end of the defense, reclaims his starting role at strong safety.
At defensive tackle, veteran Scott Paxson looks like the primary option to replace Phil Taylor (Achilles tendon) at the moment, but rookie Billy Winn will also compete for time, and fellow first-year pro John Hughes could also be in the mix, we’re told. The expectation, however, is that Taylor will be back this season, perhaps around or after midseason, the way we hear it.