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Tashaun Gipson: A Late Signing And Early Blessing For The 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are loaded on defense, but the 49ers have two of the top three safeties according to Pro Football Focus metrics. Additionally, Tashaun Gipson has been a perfect fit for DeMeco Ryan’s scheme and makes plays every Sunday.

The 49ers Safeties

The 49ers have survived the first four weeks and sit on a 2-2 record heading into Week Five against the Carolina Panthers. Undoubtedly, the defense has been stronger thus far and they are not fully healthy. Safety Jimmie Ward who was sidelined with a hamstring injury returned to practice this week for the first time since training camp. 

How Did Tashaun Gipson Get Into The NFL?

Tashaun Gipson attended Wyoming University and played as a true freshman in 2008. In his first year of college football, he racked up 56 total tackles but did not record an interception. His last three years at Wyoming were solid, to say the least. During the 2009-2011 seasons, Gipson added 194 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and nine interceptions. 

Tashaun Gipson and Kyle Shanahan

Despite lucrative numbers in college, Gipson went undrafted in 2012 eventually signing with the Cleveland Browns. In four seasons with Cleveland, he intercepted 14 passes and made one Pro Bowl. Interesting enough, Gipson and Kyle Shanahan were in Cleveland in 2014 together. Kyle, who was the offensive coordinator, talked about Tashaun and their time together.

“[Gipson] was one of the best players on our team, Shanahan said. “I thought he’s always been a good player.”

This is high praise coming from someone like Kyle Shanahan, who is known to be hard on players. 

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After his stint in Cleveland, Gipson went on to play for three other organizations before San Francisco: Jacksonville, Houston and Chicago. Despite bouncing around the league, he produced year in and year out. 

Why San Francisco Signed Tashaun Gipson

Over the last few years, the 49er defense struggled to get takeaways. The organization signed Gipson for this very reason. In his career, he has 28 interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 58 passes defended. He provides a spark in the turnover margin that helps the offense get back onto the field. 

In four games so far, he has one interception (two dropped interceptions) and one pass defended. The more impressive statistic is opposing quarterbacks average a 0.8 quarterback rating when targeting Gipson, ranking top-five in the NFL. Even with Jimmie Ward returning this week from injury, Gipson earned playing time. But now you might be thinking, how can DeMeco Ryans play Gipson, Ward, and Hufanga?

Hufanga, Ward, Gipson “Big Nickel”

Many teams around the league play a nickel package on defense exclusively, instead of a base package, usually a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. The 49ers run a 4-3 (four defensive linemen and three linebackers) base defense and rotate into Nickel on second or third and long. In a nickel defense, you substitute a linebacker for another defensive back, usually another corner, called the nickel corner. 

At this point, it would be hard to take Tashaun Gipson off the field, despite a top-100 player returning. Therefore, DeMeco Ryans could play three safeties, an uncommon concept in today’s NFL. This would be called a big nickel package because you’re substituting a linebacker for a safety. This would allow Gipson to roam as the deep safety and let Jimmie Ward drop-down in coverage. 

If the 49ers want to make a deep playoff run, Tashaun Gipson will need to continue playing at a high level. Additionally, Jimmie Ward is a free agent at the end of the season, therefore, San Francisco could bring Gipson back as a cheaper option. 



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