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Five To Watch On Defense

CLEVELAND -- After highlighting five players to watch on offense tonight during the Eagles' preseason clash against the Cleveland Browns, it's time to focus on the defense. Remember, because these two teams meet again in two weeks, neither side figures to show much, but that doesn't mean we won't learn more about the players fighting for roster spots.

Cornerback Joselio Hanson - The incumbent at the nickel cornerback position, Hanson ceded some time with the ones to Brandon Boykin against the Patriots in preseason game number two. Even though the starting defense isn't expected to play too long, Hanson might get an extended look. Yes, the Eagles know what the typically solid Hanson can do for the most part, but with Andy Reid noting that Boykin has closed the gap at the position, Hanson will have something to prove in order to keep the job.

Cornerback Brandon Boykin - Maybe this is cheating a bit, but the nickel spot is probably the most interesting true competition at this point. The fourth-round rookie certainly has youth on his side in the competition with Hanson, and, as Reid said, his improved comfort in the defense is allowing him to make a late preseason run at Hanson. Boykin should get some good work tonight, and if he really impresses, perhaps he'll do enough to sit out the final preseason game as a member of the ones.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett - It's the same old case for Jarrett as the 2011 second-rounder is fighting for a roster spot at safety. After a disappointing preseason opener against the Steelers, Jarrett rebounded a bit against the Patriots. He figures to see a lot of playing time tonight as the Eagles evaluate whether they can count on him as a backup safety heading into the season. Keep an eye on Jarrett in run support, where he took especially poor angles against the Steelers.

Linebacker Keenan Clayton - Clayton appears to be a jostling match with Akeem Jordan for the sixth linebacker spot. Jordan has experience and run support on his side, while Clayton is the more athletic of the two and is considered an asset in pass coverage. Both players do well on special teams, though Jordan was the team's leader in special teams production points last season. Clayton too should see plenty of action against the Browns as he fights for a roster spot.

Defensive end Darryl Tapp - Through no fault of his own, Tapp sits somewhere near the roster bubble, only because of the team's glut of talent on the defensive line. At defensive end in particular, Tapp joins a group of Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Phillip Hunt, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, who all appear to be roster locks. Tapp has played very well all preseason, but the pertinent question is whether the team can keep six defensive ends. In what may be limited action tonight, Tapp will have an opportunity to stand out as he lines up against Joe Thomas, perhaps the best left tackle in a Jason Peters-less NFL.

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