Dream job is up for grabs

Gip­son, Bush know that be­ing start­ing strong safety in Bears’ star-stud­ded De­fense has a lot of great perks

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY MARK POTASH | mpotash@sun­times.com | @markpotash

The quar­ter­back derby is the mar­quee po­si­tion bat­tle at train­ing camp. But the safety com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Deon Bush and Tashaun Gip­son might carry the more en­vi­able prize.

The win­ner gets to play next to two-time Pro Bowl safety Ed­die Jack­son with a slew of play­mak­ers in front of him — Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Ro­quan Smith, Robert Quinn and Danny Tre­vathan among them. If that safety gig turns sour, you prob­a­bly have no one to blame but your­self.

Gip­son has been a starter in the NFL for seven sea­sons, but he knows this is an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time.

“Elite, that’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about join­ing a de­fense like that,” said Gip­son, who played on Jaguars de­fenses that ranked sec­ond and fourth in points al­lowed in 2017 and 2018 be­fore sign­ing with the Tex­ans last sea­son. “You see the names on pa­per, the sta­tis­tics be­hind each guy, but be­ing able to see these guys up close and per­sonal . . . I mean, it’s crazy. It’s a lot dif­fer­ent than I imag­ined, and my per­cep­tion com­ing here was al­ready sky-high.

“So be­ing part of this is truly crazy, man. To see how ev­ery­body moves and how things work, and when the de­fense is flow­ing, it’s a beau­ti­ful thing. I’m ex­cited to be a part of it.”

The big ques­tion for Gip­son is just how much a part of it he will be. De­spite his ré­sumé — Gip­son has started 104 of the last 105 games he has played in — he still has to wrest the start­ing job from Bush, who has started eight games in four sea­sons with the Bears but has the ad­van­tage of fa­mil­iar­ity with the Vic Fan­gio/Chuck Pagano de­fense.

“It’s been fun,” said Bush, who started three games in 2018 (in­clud­ing the play­off game) but played only 58 snaps on de­fense last sea­son.

“Really the first time I’m able to ac­tu­ally, really com­pete. This has been ex­cit­ing for me. Just to have this op­por­tu­nity is a bless­ing for me.”

With the Bears in need of a cost-ef­fi­cient safety for 2020, they signed Bush to a oneyear, $1.4 mil­lion con­tract af­ter his rookie deal ex­pired in 2019 — and he ap­peared to be the starter. When Gip­son was cut by the Tex­ans in late April, the Bears signed him to a one-year, $1.05 mil­lion con­tract, and the bat­tle was on.

“It’s foot­ball,” Gip­son said when asked about hav­ing to com­pete for the job. “Com­pe­ti­tion brings out the best in ev­ery­body. I’ve been im­pressed with Deon. I re­spect his game. He asks me ques­tions. He’s just a stu­dent of the game. He wants to get bet­ter. I’ve been in this game a long time, and if I can help any­body — no mat­ter if I’m com­pet­ing with him or not — that’s what I’m here for. Hope­fully, when it’s all said and done, I do enough [to win the job].”

Af­ter one week of padded prac­tices, it’s too early to judge the com­pe­ti­tion. Bush’s con­fi­dence and com­fort level in Pagano’s de­fense are ev­i­dent.

“And he’s get­ting more com­fort­able tak­ing com­mand when he’s got to make some checks and ad­just­ments,” safeties coach Sean De­sai said. “Ob­vi­ously, you see his ath­leti­cism and get-to-the-ball are still show­ing up. He’s a smart player. He’s really dili­gent, and he works really hard at it.”

Gip­son has done his best work in the NFL as a free safety but will be a strong safety in the Bears’ de­fense. He seems to be ad­just­ing well.

“Great pro, he’s all busi­ness,” Pagano said. “He’s got great in­stincts. He’s got range. He can play deep. He’s done a good job play­ing down in the box [and] in one-on-one and man sit­u­a­tions. He has really picked up the de­fense.”

So will it be Gip­son or Bush? Po­si­tion bat­tles of­ten are over­rated. Some­times there’s no right choice. But at strong safety — in this de­fense — there should be no wrong one. ✶

NAM Y. HUH/AP

Deon Bush, who is bat­tling Tashaun Gip­son for the start­ing job at strong safety, played only 58 snaps on de­fense last sea­son, but he has the ad­van­tage of be­ing fa­mil­iar with the Vic Fan­gio/Chuck Pagano de­fense.

Tashaun Gip­son

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