HOUSTON -- Although the Houston Texans lost safety Tyrann Mathieu in free agency, they’re hoping his replacement -- Tashaun Gipson -- can help improve an area in which the secondary struggled last season.
“The best tight ends that are coming into NRG [Stadium], I’m going to put the clamps on them,” Gipson said.
In 2018, the Texans allowed a 74 percent completion percentage to opposing tight ends, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The 94 receptions allowed to tight ends were the third most in the league. Houston also allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends. Only two teams gave up more.
Gipson’s play last season with the Jaguars fuels his confidence. Last season against the Patriots in Week 2, the Jaguars held tight end Rob Gronkowski to two catches for 15 yards on four targets. Gipson went up against Gronkowski on 18 plays in that game. In Week 8 against the Eagles, tight end Zach Ertz had four receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown on six targets.
The Texans struggled against those two players. In Week 1, Gronkowski caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Later in the season, Ertz had a big game against Houston with 12 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Gipson started all 16 games in the past three seasons for Jacksonville. Last season, he had 54 tackles, one interception and seven passes defensed.
Before Gipson signed with the Texans, he took a look at the tight ends in the AFC South and knew he could help shut down them down.
“Those are the type of situations that I thrive in and that excite me week in and week out,” Gipson said. “Going against these guys -- from the [Eric] Ebrons that you have to see two times per [season] to the Delanie Walkers. We’ve got some good tight ends in this division.”
What makes tight ends so difficult to stop, Gipson said, is that they’re “getting bigger, stronger and faster.”
“They’re running like receivers and they’re still big like offensive linemen,” Gipson said. “The biggest thing is you just truly have to understand each guy is different, but you have to bring your own physicality. ... These guys are big, physical human beings.”
At 6 feet, 210 pounds, Gipson is usually going against tight ends who are 30 to 40 pounds and 3 or more inches larger than him. Because of that, the safety said he has to “bring that physicality to them before they can get to me.”
“They’re running just as fast as me, so there’s a lot of things that you have to bring to the table to be able to defend these tight ends,” Gipson said. “Obviously, just bring that athleticism and whatever else you can bring to the game, but I think the most important thing is just being physical with these guys. ... Obviously, you’re in the NFL for a reason, so you just have to let your talent speak for itself and kind of go from there.”
Aside from the success Gipson had against tight ends, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said he also likes the experience the safety has in different defensive schemes from his time in Jacksonville and Cleveland.
“I feel like I’m a versatile safety,” Gipson said. “If you want to play me in the middle of the field, which is what Jacksonville did, they relied on me heavily there, aside of man-to-man situations. ... If you want to play me close to the line, deep, I think I’m very interchangeable with J-Reid [Justin Reid], and I think this is an awesome opportunity to be here. However they feel like they want to utilize me best, I’m excited about that opportunity.”