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Cleveland Browns' Position Battles on Defense: Settled or Unsettled?

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Before we head into this week's third preseason game, let's take a quick stroll through each position on defense for the Cleveland Browns to decide whether the starting and backup roles are settled or unsettled. We covered the offensive side of the ball earlier in the week.

Defensive Line | Mostly Settled

The upper part of the depth chart is settled, as the team's primary nose tackle will be Danny Shelton and the starting defensive ends will be Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant. Although Phil Taylor is being eased back in to things, he will likely maintain his roster spot due to his guaranteed contract. John Hughes and Xavier Cooper also have secure roster spots, so the top six spots are pretty well settled. The reason the position is only "mostly settled" though is the fact that Billy Winn and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, two players who have been with the club for several seasons, are on the bubble. Armonty Bryant had a flashy second preseason game and would figure to have a spot, but he'll still have to showcase his talent over the next two weeks.

Inside Linebacker | Settled

Just like last year, the Browns' top three inside linebackers are Karlos Dansby, Christian Kirksey, and Craig Robertson. Dansby plays 100% of the snaps, while Kirksey and Robertson combine to split reps at the other inside linebacker spot. Even though Tank Carder is battling it out with Hayes Pullard for the fourth inside linebacker role, that spot is not expected to contribute on defense, which is why this position is marked as "settled."

Outside Linebacker | Unsettled

Paul Kruger has looked awesome this preseason, and there is no doubt that he has one of the outside linebacker positions locked up. The other spot is completely up for grabs between three players: Scott Solomon, Nate Orchard, and Barkevious Mingo. Mingo is at a disadvantage since he's recovering from a knee scope, but he should see some coverage reps when he returns early in the season. Solomon was awarded the starting role in camp by default. Despite the coaches talking him up, he hasn't shown enough to make it look like he's locked in to the role. If Orchard makes enough progress over the next two weeks, he could end up unseating Solomon.

Cornerback | Settled

There is no doubt that Joe Haden and Tramon Williams are the starters, with K'Waun Williams as the nickelback. There is also no doubt that Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert make the roster, and Charles Gaines' spot looks fairly secure too. There might be a flip of the coin between Gaines and Johnson Bademosi, but the cornerback position won't see any drastic depth chart changes.

Safety | Settled

Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson are the clear starters, with Jordan Poyer and Ibraheim Campbell as the two backups. There really isn't much other competition at the position.


What do you think, Browns fans? Are there any assessments that you disagree with?