JACKSONVILLE – Two weeks in, there are very good signs.
That's the perhaps the best way to describe the offseason impact of Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson, who is drawing praise and creating optimism in 2016 Organized Team Activities.
No one around the Jaguars will say an impressive offseason in which the unrestricted free agent has shown sideline-to-sideline range and ball instincts means Gipson is the be-all answer to all that has ailed the Jaguars' defense.
But people around the Jaguars will tell you Gipson has looked good. Really good.
"He definitely brings a different element for us," Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker said Monday as 2016 OTAs continued with a Day Seven practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
That has been a consensus thus far in OTAs – that the sideline-to-sideline range the Jaguars coveted when they signed Gipson from the Cleveland Browns in early March indeed has displayed itself in the field.
An interception by Gipson last week in the end zone drew praise not only from defensive coordinator Todd Wash, but from quarterback Blake Bortles. Wash called it the sort of play the team hadn't gotten from the free-safety position in recent seasons.
"They let me go back there in the middle of the field and play football," Gipson said. "That's one of the things that I pride myself on. I feel like I'm the best back there. They've been allowing me to do that but also play within the scheme.
"There's ten other guys out there with me so whatever I can do to help those other ten guys … I'm going to feed off of them just like they feed off me and it's going to be an exciting time."
This will be Gipson's fourth defense in five NFL seasons, and he said the main issue for him during OTAs was to develop a thorough understanding of the Jaguars' scheme.
"It wasn't a skillset or a talent thing," he said. "It was getting the defense and being comfortable in the role that they wanted to play. I've been grasping that and have been doing a great job so far understanding it mentally, which allows me to go out there and play fast.
"Once you get each defense, it's a copycat league at the end of the day. I think it's kind of helped me. There are bits and pieces that I've been able to incorporate and help me get past that learning curve to say, 'I noticed I played this two years ago in the Ray Horton defense or in the Jimmy O'Neil defense and things like that.' That's definitely been helping me out a lot."
Images from the Jaguars seventh day of OTAs.
Also around the Jaguars Monday:
*Walker discussed the team's secondary as a whole, saying, "On paper and looking at the potential, there's no question we have a better group." Walker echoed Wash's sentiments from last week, saying improvement in the secondary can be seen in the form of more interceptions in OTAs. "I think so far we have 10 or 11 interceptions," he said. "I know it's the offseason and we're not playing real games just yet, but that is a positive for us. You just see we're faster and guys are making plays on the ball." …
*Walker said free-agent cornerback Prince Amukamara's bump-and-run ability quickly has been evident in OTAs: "That's standing out already. … That was something I was very attracted to watching on tape when he was being evaluated. It's carried over so far." …
*Walker also said cornerback Davon House, who set a franchise record for passes defensed last season, is playing with more confidence in OTAs. "I think he understands what we're doing defensively. I think he's accepting being held more accountable. So I think all those things really have shone so far, that he's accepted it and he's trying to move forward." …
*Walker also discussed rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, saying while the No. 5 overall selection will miss the offseason with a knee injury he appears up to speed mentally. "Anytime you miss live reps that's always a challenge, but from a mental standpoint I think he's on top of it," Walker said. "It's just a matter of getting him out there and just get live reps." …
*Gipson discussed strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, whose role is expected to become more defined this season. With Gipson in the lineup, Cyprien is expected to focus more on playing near the line of scrimmage as a box safety. "I've been impressed with Cyp a whole lot," Gipson said. "The things that he can do closer to the line of scrimmage are absolutely amazing. I played with some of the better box safeties in the league, T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner. I said once he gets comfortable and grasps it, he can be just as good as those guys.'' …