If you didn't already know, by now you do -- the Cleveland Browns have one the best safeties in the NFL.
On Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tashaun Gipson picked off two passes from quarterback Blake Bortles, upping his total to four on the season, tying him for first in the NFL.
Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Gipson has nine interceptions. Only Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants boast more. It's beginning to become fair to mention Gipson's name with those esteemed Pro Bowlers.
Gipson was quick to point out that three of his interceptions this season have actually been a result of his teammates. But this is exactly the Wyoming alum's talent – he has a knack for being near the football.
During the first quarter on Sunday, linebacker Jabaal Sheard delivered a crushing hit on Bortles, sending the football awry. Guess who was in position to make the play? Gipson. The safety raced 32 yards, showing off his athleticism doesn't stop when the football is in his hands. Gipson made similar plays against the Saints and Ravens when Paul Kruger altered the flight of two passes.
It was Gipson's second interception in the second quarter that impressed the most.
"Anytime you have a rookie quarterback you want to confuse him pre-snap," said Gipson. "He's a good quarterback, clearly he led the team, but we wanted to make sure we tried to confuse him."
Gipson saw Denard Robinson split out wide as a receiver but played for far enough off the running back to bait Bortles into making a dicey throw. From film review, Gipson knew Robinson would be running the slant route. He saw Bortles staring down his target, undercut the route and picked off another pass.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, both of Gipson's interceptions only led to three points. It was what Gipson said after the game that shows he's not just turning into a star on the field, but a leader off of it.
"Those were just two plays," said Gipson. "At the end of the day, those don't matter. The 24-6 score explains it all. Those kinds of plays don't mean anything if you can't produce a win from it."
Gipson did agree the secondary showed up on the backend against the Jaguars, limiting Bortles to just 159 yards passing and a 40.3 quarterback rating. All of the cornerbacks and safeties were making the right jumps on the football and were getting their hands on the football to deflect passes to the ground.
It's the run defense, which Gipson and his unit still are responsible for, that's troubling the 24-year-old safety. Robinson, a sparsely used running back, teed off on the Browns by rushing for 127 yards.
"Every man has to go look in the mirror, including myself, and say, 'Hey, this is not good enough,'" Gipson said. "No disrespect to Denard Robinson, but we can't give up 100 yards rushing to anybody, especially to a struggling offense like this."
Other noteworthy items from the loss to the Jaguars
- Chris Kirksey registered a career-high seven tackles and an additional two on special teams. Kirksey is now tied for third on the Browns with 32 total tackles this season.
- Karlos Dansby's sack on Bortles gives him three on the season, which leads the Browns team.
- Andrew Hawkins set a career-high with 112 yards receiving. It was also the first time in his four-year NFL career that he's gone over 100 yards.
- Ishmaa'ily Kitchen led all Browns defensive linemen in tackles (5) for the second straight week.
- Taylor Gabriel (3 catches, 39 yards) was the highest-rated skill player on offense against the Jaguars, according to ProFootballFocus.com, grading out at 1.1
- Spencer Lanning averaged 50.4 yards on seven punts, including a long of 59.