Camp Battles: Free Safety
Dec. 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) runs with the ball after intercepting the pass n the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Like the second cornerback slot, the free safety position on the Cleveland Browns depth chart is up for grabs and it will also be going to a young unheralded prospect with limited NFL experience. It is looking like a two man race between second year players Tashaun Gipson and Johnson Bademosi. There are a number of similarities between the two. They are of similar size and skillsets, but the biggest connection between Gipson and Bademosi is that both went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. It was hard to realistically expect a lot from such unproven commodities in 2012. But the new reality for the 2013 Browns is that one of these long-term projects will be thrust into the limelight early and expectations in and around the organization will be drastically elevated.
Tashaun Gipson started every game of his college career at Wyoming, but almost all came at cornerback, before moving over to safety midway through his senior season. While this gives him a leg up in terms of pass coverage ability, it also means he is still learning the ins and outs of the free safety position. Free safeties have a much greater responsibility in run defense and open field tackling, areas Gipson still needs time to develop. Gipson slowly worked his way into the safety rotation last year due to injuries and wound up getting a couple crucial starts in the second half of the season when safety Usama Young was on the shelf. He led the team in tackles in both starts in 2012.
Bademosi would figure to have come out of college with a marginally better pedigree, with more games under his belt at the safety spot and in a much bigger football program at Stanford. Despite ultimately going undrafted, he wowed scouts at the NFL Combine of 2012 with his 40 time and vertical jump. However, Bademosi wasn’t rotated in at cornerback last season as heavily as Gipson was at safety. That’s right, he’s another player on this Browns defense being shuffled into a different spot from last year. The return to safety should be more comfortable for him but it means that much more work has to be put in to catch up with Gipson.
Gipson has been saying the right things in training camp about being prepared for the added pressure and intense scrutiny that comes with the starting job, but the fact is, Gipson and Badeomsi are developmental prospects. You like the confidence and attitude from Gipson, but it would be wishful thinking to believe the free safety position on the Cleveland Browns won’t see its share of ups and downs in the 2013 season. Gipson was steady and stepped up in the absence of others last season. He will need to make the leap to a whole new level this season or Johnson Bademosi might close the gap sooner rather than later.
Projected starter: Tashaun Gipson has a sizeable advantage in camp this year, due in part to his strong finish to the 2012 season.