BEREA — One of the position battles heading into training camp was for the free safety position opposite of T.J. Ward. Tashaun Gipson was the favorite heading into camp and he was able to hold off Johnson Bademosi to win the position.
Rob Chudzinski confirmed that Wednesday.
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“(Gipson) is the number one safety,” Chudzinski said. “I’m really forward to seeing T.J. out there with him.”
When the new coaching staff decided to part way with Usama Young and Eric Hagg, it paved the way for Gipson to step in. However, the former undrafted free agent rookie from Wyoming didn’t have a whole lot of game tape for the new coaching staff to look at.
Gipson appeared in 10 games, but had just three starts. He had 29 tackles, an interception and a pass broken up. However, Gipson made the most of his opportunity when he filled in as a starter for Young at free safety against the Raiders as he responded with eight tackles. He missed five games with a knee injury and then a foot injury sidelined him for a game late in the season.
Gipson said he found out that he was the starter via Twitter.
“I found out (Monday) on Twitter as my Twitter feed just starting blowing up.”
Gipson said although he is happy about officially being named as the starter, but said he doesn’t plan to let himself coast.
“It was just a relief that all the grind and the hard work of the off-season and the OTAs has paid off,” Gipson said. “But at the same time, there’s no stopping now just because I was named the starter. I don’t think anything will change as I will continue to fight for my job every day.”
Gipson said he’s always had to prove himself and he thinks that only helps him.
“Since I’ve been here in May of 2012, I’ve had to prove myself to the coaches, the organization, (the media), so that’s nothing new,” he said. “I’m excited for this challenge. I want Coach Horton to be 100 percent secure in me and my ability on the back end. I definitely have confidence in my ability and talents back there.”
Gipson (5-11, 205) said the responsibilities under Ray Horton’s system is far different from the system he learned as a rookie in 2012.
“Any time you go from a 4-3 to a 3-4, that’s a huge change in itself,” he said. “Being back there, the safeties are required to be more vocal and we definitely need to be on top of the game. Any slip in our game, we can potentially have a backset in the whole back seven from the linebackers to the cornerbacks, so we are responsible for a lot more things back there.”
Typically, the free safety is more of a ball-hawking type of player that gets a lot of turnovers through interceptions. Besides the one interception as a rookie in the NFL, Gipson had nine interceptions in his four-year college career.
“Definitely, as a free safety, a middle of the field safety, that’s what you pride yourself on,” he said. “At the same time, you’re just not out there trying to get interceptions. I’m going to be all over the field, if need be, whatever this defense calls for, whether it’s blitzing or coming down and making tackles. I pride myself of being that type of player but it wouldn’t hurt having a lot of interceptions.”
Gipson said he’s up to the task.
“Absolutely, I think I am,” Gipson said. “I feel like mentally I am, physically I am, I’m into the game and definitely it paid dividends for me to play as much as I did last year. I also feel that I’ve progressed as a player and that’s what has led me to the situation I’m in right now.”
Gipson was slowed during training camp with a shoulder injury, but he has not missed either preseason game. However, Ward is expected to play for the first time this Saturday against the Colts after being slowed by a hamstring injury. This will be the first time the projected starting safeties will be on the field together in a game this year.
“That’s definitely to me a blessing of being out there with who I think is one of the best safeties in the league,” Gipson said. “So being out there with T.J., I feel like we mesh well. He has his strengths and I have my strengths, but I feel we complement each other well.”
Chudzinski said he’s looking forward to seeing Gipson and Ward play together.
“(Ward) had a good day of practice (Tuesday) and we’ve been cautious with it, but he’s looking full speed,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing those two guys work together. They have done a lot of work together in practice, so its not going to be something that’s foreign once they get out in the game.”
Gipson is excited about the prospects of the Browns defense under Horton.
“With great challenges come great responsibilities and I’m excited for the challenges and am accepting the responsibility.”
Mingo Update: LB Barkevious Mingo was in the locker room before practice and asked about his bruised lung. He said he feels fine, but says he’s waiting on the doctors. He said he met with doctors on Monday.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel fine.”
Mingo was asked how tough it is to sit out when you have no timetable for a return, despite feeling good physically.
“I’m listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches,” he said. “That’s all I know.”
“This is what we do as football players,” he said. “(The organization) tells me to sit out, you sit out. You do what they tell you.”
Mingo said he’s spending a lot of time doing mental reps and trying to stay sharp.
“I’m just trying to use this time to get better.”
Chudzinski was asked if there was anything new.
“I don’t have any update other than he’s improved,” he said “With the timeline, nobody really knows, it’s just a matter of how his body heals.”
Status Quo at Guard: With the voiding of the trade for OL John Moffitt, Chudzinski was asked if the Browns were actively trying to add another guard, but he said they’ll continue to work with the guys they have on the roster with OL Shawn Lauvao and OL Jason Pinkston both out with ankle injuries.
“You’re looking for everything at this time of year,” he said. “But, we have some guys working (at right guard) right now that have made some progress. Oniel Cousins is working there. Garrett Gilkey is working there. Caylin Hauptmann is making working there, as well.”
Gilkey and Cousins rotated with the first team offense Wednesday at right guard.
Chudzinski was asked why the Browns voided the deal with Moffitt.
“Out of respect for John, I’m not going to get into that.”
For Starters: Chudzinski said the plan is to play the starters the entire first half against the Colts in what has become the dress rehearsal for the regular season. He said the starters will likely play a series into the third quarter, with the exception of a few and he did say that RB Trent Richardson was likely not to be in that long.
Sheard Sits Out: Sitting out of Wednesday’s practice were: DL Jabaal Sheard (knee), WR Davone Bess (rest), TE Gary Barnidge (shoulder), DB Trevin Wade (shoulder), DL Desmond Bryant (back), WR Naaman Roosevelt (hamstring) and Wr Jordan Norwood (hamstring). Chudzinski met with the media before practice and said Bess was getting a scheduled rest, but didn’t mention Sheard. The Browns officially said that Sheard was day-to-day with a knee injury.
Nelson Possible: WR David Nelson practiced for the second day in a row and he has not been ruled out for Saturday’s preseason game with the Colts.
“It’s to be determined,” Chudzinski said. “He practiced (Tuesday) and will practice today. We’ll see how he does and make a determination later in the week.”
Nelson has yet to play in a game and Chudzinski was asked how they will be able to make a decision on him without seeing him if he doesn’t play this week.
“You have to go somewhat on the tape from what he’s done in the past,” he said. “He looked good (Tuesday) running around out there. We’ll just have to get whatever evaluation we can and that’s what we’ll have to go on.
“It’s a little hypothetical right now, because we have another game and practices, so let’s just see how it goes this week.”
Looking Ahead: The formula for the Browns schedule in 2014, the Browns five home games besides the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals are: Texans, Colts, Saints, Buccaneers and the AFC West team that corresponds in the standings. The away games besides the AFC North are: Jaguars, Titans, Falcons, Panthers and the AFC East corresponding team.