DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns gave Wyoming safety Tashaun Gipson a chance to make their 53-man roster. During his senior season as a Cowboy, Gipson produced 95 tackles (72 solo), 2.5 tackles for a loss, .5 sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defensed, and four forced fumbles. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Gipson impressed the Browns’ coaching staff with his instinctive and aggressive play. This earned him a spot on the opening day 53-man roster. During the 2012 season, Gipson started three games (played 377 defensive snaps in ten games), produced 25 tackles (five assists), and one interception.
Tashaun Gipson’s ProFootballFocus.com Profile
By ProFootballFocus.com’s standards, Tashaun Gipson played one poor game and nine solid or average games during the 2012 season. As you can see, Gipson produced 25 tackles, five assists, two missed tackles and four “stops”. He also played in 377 out of all 1,196 of the team’s defensive snaps.
As a safety, one of Tashaun Gipson’s primary duties is to be able to make tackles in the open field. All in all, Gipson did a good job in this area. He is very aggressive and fast in pursuit and he regularly does a good job of wrapping up, bringing his head across, keeping his feet moving on contact, and getting the ball carrier on the ground. Impressively, Gipson only missed two tackles during the entire 2012 season.
Tashaun Gipson ranked seventh in Tackling Efficiency amongst all safeties that were on the field on at least 25% of their team’s total defensive snaps during the 2012 season (87 qualified). ProFootballFocus describes Tackling Efficiency as “The total number of attempted tackles a safety made per each missed tackle”. You may click on the chart if you wish to enlarge it.
Week Four: Baltimore Ravens
Prior to the snap, the Ravens line up with the strong side (tight end) to the left and one back in the backfield. Gipson is the weak safety in a two-deep look in the secondary.
After taking a few read steps, Gipson recognizes that the ball is going to the running back. At this point, he plants his foot in the ground and pursues the ball carrier to the outside. This is an outside zone run play and Gipson’s job is to contain the running back and keep him from getting to the edge of the defense.
The running back cuts the run back inside and Gipson recognizes it. He stops his path to the outside and adjusts his pursuit angle to the hole in which the back is running through.
The running back makes his way through the hole and the Sam linebacker closes in on him from the left side of the image. Gipson continues his pursuit.
The running back jukes and makes the linebacker miss. Notice all of the space in front of the running back if he can get into the open field.
Gipson closes in on the running back and reaches out with his right arm in an attempt to wrap him up. If Gipson misses this tackle, this will result in a long run.
Finally, Gipson wraps up the running back and brings him down for an eight-yard gain.
This play showed Gipson’s ability to change direction along with his ability to make tackles in the open field.
Week 17: Pittsburgh Steelers
The offense lines up in 11 personnel with one deep back and an H-back motioned into the backfield. Gipson is the single-high free safety. He spent his time in this role often during the 2012 season.
At the snap of the ball, Gipson takes a few read steps backwards. As he takes the steps, he reads the offense and makes sure that the quarterback is truly handing off to the running back and not executing a play action fake. Once he reads run, he plants his foot in the ground and begins to make his way up to the box in run support. The offense looks to be running an inside zone run play with the offensive linemen all slide stepping to the left and blocking the defender in the gap to their left as the H-back does his best to seal the left defensive end to the inside.
The entire defensive front seven gets sealed to the inside and the running back finds lots of running room to the outside. The X receiver (also known as the Split End; receiver to the weak side of the formation that lines up on the line of scrimmage) is executing a beautiful block on the left cornerback (#23). Gipson aggressively pursues the back to the outside.
Gipson is forced to adjust his pursuit angle as the back makes his way to the edge. He begins to flatten his pursuit angle toward the sideline to ensure that he does not take too narrow of an angle. A narrow angle may result in a missed tackle and a long run.
As Gipson closes in on the back, it is important for him to understand the type of ball carrier that he is attempting to tackle. The running back is nearly 230 lb. Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer is a big, powerful back and players his size can be difficult to bring down in the open field. For Gipson (only 205 lbs.) to make the tackle, he is going to need to go low and take out Dwyer’s legs.
Gipson does an excellent job of getting his head across, getting low, and taking out Dwyer’s legs. The run resulted in a 12-yard gain, but this was an impressive open-field tackle by Gipson.
Week 13: Oakland Raiders
On this play, Gipson is the weak safety in a two-deep look. The offense lines up with the strength of the formation to the right with an extra offensive lineman and a tight end on that side.
Gipson drops to his landmark and takes a few read steps. Once he recognizes that the quarterback is handing off to the running back, he plants his left foot in the ground and begins to pursue the running back to the outside. Gipson’s job on the play is to contain the back to the inside. The offense is running an outside zone run play to the weak side.
The right cornerback attempts to get to the inside and tackle the running back. He should be containing on the play. The wide receiver makes him pay for his mistake as he blocks him down the field and to the inside. The left tackle gets to the second level and seals the Will linebacker to the inside. These two key blocks combine to create plenty of space on the edge of the defense. Gipson is now faced with the tall task of tackling the 6’1″, 255 lb Marcel Reece (#45) in the open field.
As Reece begins to make his way to the edge, he makes sure that he keeps plenty of room between he and the sideline. This puts stress on Gipson’s pursuit angle. If Gipson’s angle is too narrow, Reece will adjust his path to the outside and make him miss. If Gipson’s angle is too wide, Reece will be given a chance to cut back to the inside. The correct choice for Gipson would be to take a wide path and attempt to slow down Reece enough to allow his help (teammates to the inside that are in pursuit) to catch up and make the play.
At this point in the play, Gipson is making a mistake by beginning to stop his feet and slow down as he closes in on Reece. This leaves Gipson’s narrow pursuit angle even more susceptible to being beaten to the outside.
Reece recognizes Gipson slowing down and stopping his feet so he adjusts his path to the outside. Gipson is forced to quickly accelerate and adjust his pursuit angle to the outside. He closes in and begins to dive at Reece’s feet in hopes of bringing the big back down.
Gipson whiffs on the tackle attempt and Reece runs right past him.
Gipson watches as Reece runs out of bounds for a 12-yard gain and a first down. Had Gipson taken a better angle and made the tackle or even slowed down Reece, it is doubtful that this many yards had been gained.
Overall, Tashaun Gipson did a solid job in coverage during the 2012 season. Based on studying the times that Gipson was targeted in coverage, I do not believe that he will ever be the type of safety that a defensive coordinator will regularly trust in man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers in space. He is not a quick-twitch safety and he will likely be a liability in confined areas. Gipson is at his best in zone coverage, but he must learn from his mistakes and improve his instincts by studying his opponents if he wishes to take his ability in zone to the next level. Although Gipson shows the physical attributes to be a very good cover safety, he must improve his instincts and do a better job of keeping his balance when adjusting to receivers in space. There were too many times that I saw Gipson lose his balance when adjusting to receivers. With all of this being said, Gipson showed plenty of promise in coverage and his physical attributes were regularly on display. I believe that the promise that he showed was the reason for Gipson being used primarily on passing downs during his rookie season (spent 251 out of 377 snaps in pass coverage).
During the 2012 season, Tashaun Gipson was targeted seven times and gave up five receptions (71.4 completion percentage against) for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception. Between all five catches, he allowed 22 yards after the catch and the longest reception he allowed went for 34 yards.
Tashaun Gipson ranked seventh in “Cover Snaps Per Reception” amongst all safeties that were in coverage on at least 25% of their team’s total defensive snaps on pass plays during the 2012 season (91 qualified). ProFootballFocus describes Cover Snaps Per Reception as “The amount of times a safety is the primary man in coverage relative to how many receptions he allows”.
Week 14: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs line up in 11 personnel with a wide receiver and tight end to the right, a wide receiver and slot receiver to the left, and a back in the backfield. The quarterback is in shotgun and the offense is in a spread formation. I have illustrated that the receivers are all going to run slant routes on the play. The defense is in Cover 1 and they will send five front seven defenders on a “Dog Blitz”. A Dog Blitz is executed any time that a defense sends five defenders in an effort to put pressure on the quarterback. Tashaun Gipson is the single-high safety in the middle of the field. He is responsible for covering any receiver that beats the man coverage underneath. The cornerbacks are in man coverage against the wide receivers, the strong safety is in man coverage against the tight end, the nickelback is in man coverage against the slot receiver, and the Mike linebacker is in man coverage against the running back.
Gipson drops back into his deep zone and reads the quarterback’s eyes. The quarterback instantly looks to his left as soon as he catches the snap. (I am assuming that he looked in that direction because the right cornerback has given the wide receiver a large cushion. The quarterback probably thought that he could fit a pass in to the wide receiver on the slant route.) The cornerback is in off-man coverage.
As soon as the right cornerback sees that the slot receiver is running a slant route, he plants his right foot in the ground and drives on his man’s (the outside wide receiver’s) route; anticipating that he will run a slant route as well. The cornerback never even backpedaled. This is an example of a cornerback “squatting on a route”.
The quarterback throws the ball in the direction that he has been looking the entire play (to the left wide receiver). Gipson begins to pursue in that direction.
The ball goes through the cornerback’s hands and then bounces off of the receiver’s shoulder pads. The ball ricochets into the air and Gipson closes in on it.
Gipson intercepts the pass.
Here is an HD look at the ball just after it bounced off of the receiver’s shoulder pads.
Here is an HD look at Gipson right after the interception. He performed a spin move and made the receiver miss his tackle attempt immediately after catching the ball.
Gipson cuts and makes another offensive player miss a tackle attempt. He then makes his way to the outside in an attempt to get as many yards as he possibly can.
Gipson gets tackled at Kansas City’s 13-yard line for an interception return of 23 yards. Gipson showed great instincts and athletic ability on the play in intercepting the pass and making a play with the ball in his hands.
Week Four: Baltimore Ravens
On this particular play, the Ravens run a pass play with three vertical routes. The outside receivers will run fade routes and the slot receiver will threaten the deep middle of the field with a seam route. The Browns’ safeties are in a two-deep look with the cornerbacks up near the line of scrimmage. This is an instant sign that the defense will most likely be in some variation of a Cover 2 defense. Gipson is the weak safety in the two-deep look.
At the snap of the ball, Gipson begins to make his way to the deep half that he is responsible for. The cornerbacks do their best to force the wide receivers to the inside and the Mike linebacker begins to drop to the area between the two deep safeties. All of this tells me that the Browns are in a Tampa 2 look.
As Gipson continues to drop back to his landmark, it becomes apparent that there is going to be a lot of stress on the three deep defenders (the two safeties and the Mike linebacker). The Mike linebacker is going to have to cover the slot receiver in the deep middle and the safeties are each going to have to get over to the sideline to defend the wide receivers on the fade routes.
As the slot receiver gets past the nickelback and passed on to the deep defenders, Gipson turns his hips to the inside, toward the slot receiver. With the cornerbacks responsible for underneath the fade routes, Gipson must trust the Mike linebacker to cover the slot receiver. Gipson’s responsibility is to get over to the sideline and cover over the top of the right wide receiver.
The quarterback recognizes that Gipson is giving his attention to the slot receiver and he winds up to throw the ball to the wide receiver on the fade route. Just as the ball comes out of the quarterback’s hand, Gipson gets his body turned to the outside. He then sprints to the outside in hopes of making a play on the ball before the receiver can catch it inbounds.
You can see in this image how wide open the receiver is. All of that space was caused by a mistake as simple as Gipson having his hips turned in the wrong direction.
The receiver catches the ball inbounds and falls out of bounds before Gipson can recover.
Here is an HD image of the receiver catching the pass inbounds with Gipson a few steps away. The play resulted in a 34-yard gain. This was the longest completion that Gipson surrendered during the entire 2012 season.
All in all, Tashaun Gipson showed plenty of promise during his first season as a pro. Although I highlighted a few negative plays in this piece, you can see in the charts that he did a very solid job in limited action. This upcoming season, there is a good chance that Gipson will be the Browns’ starting free safety week one against the Miami Dolphins. For Gipson to show that he should be the team’s starter at the position long-term, he must prove that he can play on every down and he must show more consistent in coverage and in run support.