Recent Chicago Bears signing Tashaun Gipson is a proven performer with postseason experience and plenty of playing time under his belt as a member of some hard-fighting defenses. He also has two things every good secondary needs: speed and ball skills.
Seeing that the Bears are employing two safeties possessing that skill set, Gipson considers his tandem with Jackson quite the pairing:
“Pairing with a guy like that, I’ve always prided myself on being ball-aware. And having two guys back there, with a D-line and a front seven like that in front of you, this defense has always prided themselves on being able to get turnovers, so I think that’s going to be a deadly combination. I’m excited to pair with him.
“It’s just a perfect pairing to me. I’m excited to get to work with him, a guy with a similar skill-set to mine. It’s a blessing to be able to be involved with a defense like this and they have playmakers like that because everybody gets opportunities. If they’re scared to throw over there his way, then, hey, more opportunities for me.”
Seeing that Gipson is on a one-year pact, following his unexpected cut from Texans after the NFL Draft, he has all the motivation in the world to make the most of his “prove it” deal with the Bears.
But one question remains — Where will he play in the Bears secondary? One answer to that question might be: “It doesn’t matter.” But the better answer is probably just “everywhere.” The solution is in the data.
Pro Football Focus’ updated player profile pages now provide a position-by-position breakdown of where players lined up last season.
Here’s the breakdown for Gipson’s 868 snaps in 2019:
• Free safety: 387 snaps (44.6%)
• Box: 269 (30.9%)
• Slot cornerback: 127 (14.6%)
• Defensive line: 49 (5.6%)
• Wide cornerback: 36 (4.1%)
And here’s how Jackson’s 1,060 defensive snaps were divided last season:
• Free safety: 540 snaps (50.9%)
• Box: 262 (24.7%)
• Slot cornerback: 232 (21.9%)
• Defensive line: 20 (1.9%)
• Wide cornerback: 6 (0.6%)
Seeing how Jackson and Gipson were used last year leads me to believe that more of the same is on the horizon. And while that might be jarring to traditionalists, it’s hard to imagine this as a bad thing from a modern football perspective. As the game evolves, so do the responsibilities of players at any number of positions. And when it comes to safety play, the days of one free safety and one box safety appear to be in the rear-view mirror. Safeties are asked to do virtually everything now. So long as your team is equipped with two safeties who can do those things.
With that being said, let’s take a look at a break down of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s 1,066 defensive snaps from last season:
• Free safety: 660 snaps (61.9%)
• Box: 275 (25.8%)
• Slot cornerback: 89 (8.3%)
• Defensive line: 28 (2.6%)
• Wide cornerback: 14 (1.3%)
Maybe the Gipson signing was more about being able to successfully diversify the defensive assignments than it was about sliding Jackson back into a traditional free safety role. Because, as we can see from the snap chart, there really is no such thing as a free safety. Well, at least not in the most traditional sense.
Recency bias can get the best of me from time to time. And maybe it’s getting to me now. But I think the Tashaun Gipson signing might be the team’s best offseason addition, as this singular contract could – all at once – make the Bears’ secondary better at multiple positions on the field. Go figure.