Breaking down safeties: Cleveland

June, 24, 2011
6/24/11
2:00
PM ET
Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson breaks down the safeties of each AFC North team. Today: Cleveland Browns.

T.J. Ward had a successful first season in the league. Like most rookie safeties, Ward needs to work on his coverage recognition. He will never be a fluid coverage player who can hang with slot receivers, and he might be only a marginal deep-half zone player. He is a killer in the run game, though. Ward is a big hitter, and although he will overrun plays at times because of it, he can really set the tone for the Browns' defense. He also proved to be a factor on special teams.

Abram Elam could become a free agent and would have several suitors. Elam isn't special in any one area, but he is a solid all-around player who improved in 2010 and made some big plays along the way. His departure would create a big hole next to Ward. If Elam does leave, the Browns need to bring in a rangy playmaker to fill the void.

Eric Hagg was drafted in the seventh round to be Ward’s backup and a quality special teams contributor, and he has the perfect makeup to handle both responsibilities.

Nick Sorensen will be a free agent, and Sabby Piscitelli could also leave. Sorensen was excellent on special teams, so bringing him back makes sense, but neither he nor Piscitelli played meaningful snaps with the defense. Piscitelli was a big liability in coverage.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD