Throughout the first day of the free agency legal tampering period on Monday, I just kept thinking that the Texans would add former Jacksonville Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson to the roster. I don't know exactly why, but it made the most sense in my brain. We watched him from the Jaguars sideline the past three years and he certainly made an impression on me and others. Early Tuesday morning, my intuition became a reality as the former Pro Bowl safety chose to sign with the Texans, adding to a group that includes Justin Reid, Andre Hal, Mike Tyson and AJ Moore. What does Gipson provide for this team in 2019 and beyond? Let's take a look.
First thing I really want to know about a player is his football IQ. There was a play that stood out to me when watching Gipson against us a couple of seasons ago and another against the Titans in 2018. Gipson is seen moving from right of the formation to the left side, but it appeared that no Titans player was changing/shifting/motioning to the other side. Gipson waved his hand/arm in the direction of Titans tight end Jonnu Smith, telling him to motion to the other side with him. In essence, Gipson knew by formation or voice command or film study or all of the above that Smith was going to motion/shift to the other side of the formation.
It's a little thing, but having that type of knowledge of what the opponent does on a play-by-play basis is the foundation of a great defense.
There are so many different facets that a team wants to see in a safety. Toughness. Ability to tackle in space effectively. But, in this league, a safety better be able to turn teams over. Here's an example of Gipson doing just that against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was 3rd-and-10 for the Chiefs against the Jaguars in the first half. That down and distance is a key one and the reason I picked this play is because the Texans defense really struggled on 3rd-and-long late in the 2018 season. Gipson was aligned in the middle of the field with The Cheetah in the slot - Tyreek Hill.
The Jaguars appeared to be in a quarter-quarter-half/split safety coverage so the Chiefs wanted to target Hill, beyond the linebackers and in front of Gipson for a 14 or 15-yard throw for a first down.
In situations like this against Hill, I've seen many safeties not want to get burned down the field, so they take a deep drop to keep it in front and leave too much space in front of them for a third-down completion. Gipson, though, takes the proper depth on his drop, such that Hill is not outside of earshot at any point during the play. That way, Gipson can break on Hill and make a potential play on the ball to deny the third-down completion.
When Gipson settled on his drop, he was under control such that he could break on the throw once Mahomes let it fly out of his hand. Gipson didn't really get a ton of help from his linebackers, who honestly could've been in better position underneath. But, because of his positioning and understanding, he was in great shape without the linebacker help. Look at the small distance that Gipson had to make up. That's perfect on a play like this.
So, if Mahomes threw the ball, either one of two things was going to happen - Gipson was going to knock it away or pick it off.
Mahomes then threw high…
...and Gipson picked it off.
I love the way that Gipson drove on the ball from distance. That's another common thread watching him in the back end. He seems to always have proper leverage, so when a receiver makes a definitive break on the ball, Gipson drives to that spot and contests the completion. This situation resulted in an interception. Later in that same drive, he helped deny the Chiefs on three straight downs when Mahomes went looking for a touchdown pass in the red zone.
The one other thing that Gipson does well is cover tight ends. He faced all of the greats over the past few years. Gronk in the AFC championship game in 2017 and in Week 2 of 2018. Zach Ertz in London last year. Travis Kelce last year.
He gave up no catches to Gronk in either matchup. He allowed one catch to Ertz and then made a tackle for a loss on a hide-boot throw to him later in the game. Think about what both those tight ends did to the Texans in 2018. Shoot, Gronk's been doing for nearly a decade.
It's clear Gipson can cover him some tight ends too.
All in all, Gipson should make for an intriguing fit in this defense in 2019 and beyond.
Check out some of the best shots of new Texans safety Tashaun Gipson. (Photos via AP Images.)