With just 39 days until kickoff, let’s talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backfield and one of the few unknowns — Tashaun Gipson.
"I'm just not a guy that wants to sit middle of the field."
Former head coach Gus Bradley spent three years searching for his "franchise free safety" before general manager Dave Caldwell signed Tashaun Gipson in the 2016 offseason. After signing Gipson, who had an impressive four seasons with the Cleveland Browns — 14 interceptions and 23 defended passes — Bradley believed his philosophy for the Jaguars secondary had been fulfilled.
Nope. (Well, at least, not yet.)
Bradley ran a strict Cover 3 defense for the majority of 2016, where Gipson played the deep middle of the field as a "babysitter" of the defense: If anything broke deep, whether it be a run into the second level of the defense or a deep pass, it became Gipson’s responsibility to track the ball, across the entire field.
Gipson simply didn’t look comfortable in this scheme. He recorded only one interception and two defended passes in 2016 despite being labeled as a "ball-hawk" after his time with the Browns.
Many were quick to label Gipson as a bust of a free agency signing, but with a revamped defense (especially secondary) you should not write him off yet.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash has noted that, although they’ll still use a single-high safety, there will be other coverages going forward, and that after signing strong safety Barry Church, the two safeties will interchange between the free and strong safety positions.
This should take some pressure off of Gipson, as he will be given more opportunities to make in various areas of the playing field — which, again, is what he’s been asking for.
Considering the Jaguars significantly upgraded the strong safety position in signing Church as well as the cornerback position opposite of Jalen Ramsey in signing A.J. Bouye, Gipson has loads more talent around him in the secondary, and likely won’t have to "babysit" any longer.
Gipson has been viewed as a "ball-hawk" and a "see-ball, get-ball" player in the past before playing in the Jaguars strict defensive scheme last year. With flexibility and potential to play all over the field going forward, as well as talent around him to lift his play, can Gipson turn things around and prove he’s worth his $36 million contract this season?