Browns’ safety tandem among best

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the safety tandem of T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson has emerged as one of the best in the NFL.

T.J. Ward was the given. 

If the Browns had any hope of being even somewhat solid at safety this season, Ward’s play on the strong side would likely be the reason.

Tashaun Gipson was the question mark.

If there was going to be a gaping hole in the Browns’ secondary, Gipson’s handling of the free safety spot would presumably be the reason.

As it turned out, Ward and Gipson have formed one of the better safety tandems in the NFL.

Ward is having the best of his four NFL seasons and has seemingly made a good case to be selected to his first Pro Bowl. Two years into a career that began with his making the Browns’ roster as an undrafted free agent, Gipson is proving that he was worthy of a high draft choice.

“Tashuan’s had a great year this year,” Ward said. “He’s playing very well. Having that running mate makes it very fun back there. The offense can’t say, ‘I’m going to lean this way or I’m going to stay on this side of the field or I’m going to do this or that,’ because you have two players that can make plays all over the field.”

Never was that more evident than in last Sunday’s 38-31 loss against the Chicago Bears.

Gipson had two interceptions, giving him four for the season and a share of the team lead with cornerback Joe Haden. He returned the second for a touchdown.

Ward tipped a pass that Gipson intercepted in the end zone and recovered a fumble and returned it for a score. That marked Ward’s second touchdown of his career; his first came on a pick-six in the Browns’ victory against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3.

“I think me and Tashaun feed off of each other,” Ward said. “He makes a play, I make a play. It charges us both up. It’s been great playing with him this year.

“Good results come from when you’re running to the ball, and I think that’s what me and Gip do very well. We’re always running to the ball, we always want to be around the ball, looking for tipped passes, picks, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles. Whatever we can do.”

Although many others, in and out of the team, raised questions about Gipson’s ability to satisfactorily fill the free safety spot, Ward said he had no doubts.

He could see Gipson instantly showing that he had what it took to be a competent starter during organized team activity sessions, as well as during training camp.

“I saw the flashes of Tashaun’s talent,” Ward said. “And he’s hungry. He has a chip on his shoulder. No one counted him in coming into the season. It was always a competition in camp. Even when he was starting the entire camp, it was like there was still a competition going on. But he felt he was the starter and was going to be a starter and I felt that way, too, because he had played so well in OTAs and camp.

“And now he’s just showing the rest of the world what he can do. He’s playing great right now and it helps to keep that chip on your shoulder because when you start getting complacent and comfortable, then that’s when you start playing not so good. I think he’s going to keep that chip because he’s looking to do bigger and better things. He’s always looking to get better, and whenever you’re always looking to get better, you’ll always improve.”

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