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Safety tandem develops chemistry

Posted Aug 25, 2013

The Cleveland Browns’ safety tandem of T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson worked together for the first time in the preseason Saturday night.

The Cleveland Browns have battled injuries in the secondary all throughout training camp, and in Saturday’s 27-6 preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the team finally had its starting safeties, T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson in the lineup at the same time.

Being able to work Ward and Gipson together helped a defense that was missing two starters, defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms) and outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (knee), because of injuries.

“It was a blessing to be out there, first and foremost,” Gipson said. “Just being out there with my counterpart, T.J. getting back into the swing of things, and seeing how the defense is starting to move, it was fun out there. We had a couple guys out, but for the most part, we had all our guys on the back end, and I felt like we were up for the challenge tonight.”

Ward added, “It felt good. This was different from practice. We still have some things to work on, some timing things that, of course, I’m going to get better at with more opportunities at game speed. It was good to be out there with my teammates. I told them it just felt good to be out there with them, and they echoed the same back to me. Just being out there, playing football again and being with my teammates felt good.”

Although the Browns allowed 364 yards to the Colts in the loss, having the safeties in the lineup helped with getting plays called in the proper amount of time.

“I think the communication was good for the most part,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “They were talking on the sidelines, felt like they had things under their control. That doesn’t mean it was perfect by any means, and we have to improve overall, but it was good seeing those guys get a chance to work together and develop that chemistry on the field.”

Developing chemistry is exactly what Gipson and Ward plan on doing in the remaining practices before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“It’s always important to develop that chemistry when you’ve got a guy back there like T.J,” Gipson said. “You always want to have that chemistry with the guy that’s going to be back there with you every snap, making all the calls with you. It was good to have him back out there. I felt we jelled well.”

Ward added, “Even though it’s just an exhibition game, we played a whole half and a lot of things can be corrected. We can get better on a lot of things. Going into the first game, we’re just going to look at the film, correct what we need to correct and get ready for Week One.”

The communication and chemistry from Ward and Gipson resulted in a forced turnover for the Browns.

The Colts had a second-and-goal from the Browns’ four-yard line with 3:46 remaining in the second quarter and were driving for a touchdown that would have put them in front by 17 points heading into halftime.

However, Gipson corralled a tipped pass off the hands of Colts fullback Stanley Havili and stopped the drive. Chudzinski described it as a “great play.”

“That was a big play in that situation, and again, we settled in defensively, played a lot better as the game went on, and I think that’s something to build on, something we can build on,” Chudzinski said.

Gipson credited the scheme with the takeaway.

“The back had spread to the flat, which is my responsibility,” Gipson said. “If that didn’t happen, I definitely would’ve made the tackle. When I saw the ball in the air, he tipped it, then, I tipped it. As soon as I tipped it, I knew I had it. My main concern was staying in bounds. I looked to the sideline and saw that I had three or four yards of field to work with. I wish I could’ve cut it up, but a turnover’s a turnover, and we’ll take that any day.

“I was definitely blessed to be able to haul it in. We needed that. Anytime you can get a turnover in the red zone, it kills the offense’s morale. We were fortunate enough to make that play down there.”

Click here to view the photo gallery from the Browns-Colts game.