BEREA -- When the Browns let Usama Young leave via free agency and released Eric Hagg this spring, the door was wide open for Tashaun Gipson to step in and claim the Browns starting free safety spot. Gipson had a meteoric rise from being an undrafted free agent rookie from Wyoming who made the roster in 2012 to the starter by the end of the season.
Last year's defensive coordinator Dick Jauron praised Gipson, but with a new coaching staff it was hard to speculate what they thought of him.
“He’s a solid player," Rob Chudzinski said. "He is smart. He works at it. He understands football. He has a good football sense. He’s showing some good coverage skills out here.”
It is obvious Gipson has impressed both Chudzinski and Ray Horton, so far.
“I’ve been pleased with Tashaun," Chudzinski said. "He’s showing a lot from a coverage standpoint. The last couple of days just watching him, obviously we put the pads on tomorrow, so we will get a chance to see all the guys pop. From a tackling standpoint that’s where we will get to see some of the physical things and we will get a little bit more of a chance to evaluate some guys.”
The Browns drafted Jamoris Slaughter from Notre Dame in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. However, he missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and will need to play his way into the competition.
Gipson (5-11, 205) made the team and played in 10 games with three starts in 2012. He finished with 29 tackles, an interception and a pass broken up. He had four special team tackles. Gipson missed five games with a knee injury.
Gipson's primary competition is fellow undrafted rookie free agent from a year ago, Johnson Bademosi, who made his mark as a special teams phenom. The coaching staff decided to move him from cornerback to safety and he's playing well, thus far in training camp. Bademosi led the Browns last year with 18 special team tackles. He also played at cornerback. Bademosi is 6-0, 200 pounds and played at Stanford.
"I feel great," Bademosi said. "Every day I'm getting better. The angles are different and the responsibilities are different.
"But it's a new opportunity for me," he said. "The more you can do the longer you can stay (in the NFL)."
Chudzinski said that Bademosi is doing well in making the transition from cornerback to safety.
“I think he’s making progress on a day-to-day basis," Chudzinski said. "It’s a matter of getting comfortable in the new position. It’s something that he’s never played before. I think he’s progressing. Everybody is going to have ups and downs and everybody is going to have good days and bad days, and good plays and bad plays. The key is learning, progressing and going in the right direction.”
Bademosi has been getting his hands on a lot of passes. On Friday, he batted down back-to-back passes from Brian Hoyer. He should've caught one and returned it for a touchdown. On Saturday, Bademosi knocked down a pass intended for Josh Cooper.
"I've been getting my hands on the ball," he said. "Now, I have to catch them."
Bademosi said he intends to open more eyes this season.
"Last year, I did more than what people expected of me and that's the plan to do again this year."
Scary Scene: Browns OL Ryan Miller was either injured or collapsed during practice and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic by emergency medical personnel. Practice stopped and the field house was silent for nearly 10 minutes as team trainers and medical personnel worked on Miller. He was then immobilized on a stretcher and put into the ambulance.
"Ryan Miller was injured early in practice with a head injury," Chudzinski said after practice. "He was taken to the hospital after a medical staff treated him on the field. They were able to transport him to the hospital. At this time, Ryan is doing well. He's responsive and it sounds like things are better at this point.
"We'll continue to give updates on (him)," he said. "I plan on visiting Ryan tonight and seeing him."
Fellow offensive linemen Joe Thomas was right there when it happened.
"It was during one-on-one run blocking drills," he said. "I think it was a concussion-type (injury)."
Thomas said that Miller was unconscious.
After Miller was taken by ambulance, the entire team gathered in a circle on a knee and appeared to pray for him.
"We got together and said a prayer and said let's keep Ryan in our thoughts," Chudzinski said. "But I told them we need to get back out there and get to work."
Chudzinski said he was impressed with the team's focus.
"I thought they did a great job," he said. "It says a lot about them and our coaches to be able to do that. this team is a family and when something happens like that, it's tough. But these guys remained focused."
Miller (6-7, 320) was a fifth-round draft choice of the Browns (160th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. He appeared in eight of 16 games as a reserve. Miller turned 24 on July 6.
Thomas said he is close with Miller.
"My heart goes out to him," he said. "He's a nice guy. He's hard working and we're praying for him."
Taylor, Davis Back: DL Phil Taylor was back at practice along with TE Kellen Davis. Both players had missed the first two days of practice. Taylor sat out with a calf injury, while Davis had a knee strain. OL Oniel Cousins missed practice after rolling his ankle on Friday. Chudzinski said he might miss a couple of weeks. Also, FB Brock Bolen, who was signed last week sat out practice with a calf injury.
"(Taylor) went through individual (drills) today," Chudzinski said. "We'll monitor him and get him out there."
Indoors: Due to inclement weather, the Browns moved their first scheduled practice with pads indoors and it was closed to the public. The players wore shoulder pads and shorts. The team is scheduled to be in full pads on Sunday.
"I didn't want our first time in full pads to be inside," Chudzinski said.
Sunday's practice is scheduled from 4-6:30 pm and is open to the public.