Tashaun Gipson kicks off Pro Bowl campaign by stifling Gronk

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson felt he deserved to be in the Pro Bowl last year and vowed that he wouldn't get overlooked in 2018.

He certainly made a pretty good opening argument with what he did on Sunday against New England's Rob Gronkowski, holding the All-Pro tight end to just two catches for 15 yards in the Jaguars' 31-20 victory at TIAA Bank Field. If Gipson can continue to play at that level the rest of the season, it makes the Jaguars' already loaded secondary even better.

"I really appreciate the coaches putting the confidence in me," Gipson said. "... The coaches believed in me. I have never wavered, because I feel I have never met a tight end I couldn't cover. I have been doing this since last year and it's a matchup I was excited about. He [Gronkowski] wasn't excited about it as I was, because I am just Tashaun Gipson.

"You all were pumped for this matchup because I knew what I could do. When you turn on the tape, you can see what it looked like."

Gronkowski caught a 9-yard pass from Tom Brady on the game's first offensive snap. He caught another with 8:16 remaining in the first half. He never touched another ball. Gipson wasn't on Gronkowski exclusively, but he said he did get him in man coverage about 85 percent of the time. Sometimes he had help from safety Barry Church over the top, but he mainly handled Gronkowski by himself.

Sunday was just the third time in the past 15 games that Gronkowski had caught fewer than three passes.

"I knew what the opportunity was and I knew this game was going to rest on my shoulders if and when we called a lot of man [coverage]," Gipson said. "... I just want this respect: Next time there's a good tight end or when we see them in the AFC Championship or something like that, don't say, 'Who's going to guard Gronk?' Just say, 'What is 39 going to do against Gronk?'"

Gipson's work on Sunday is encouraging for the Jaguars because they've got games ahead against teams with some prolific tight ends: Travis Kelce (Kansas City), Zach Ertz (Philadelphia), Jesse James (Pittsburgh), and Jordan Reed (Washington). If Gipson is able to limit those players -- Ertz has 16 catches and Kelce already has two touchdown catches in two games -- the Jaguars' secondary will make things even tougher for opposing quarterbacks.

Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye were Pro Bowlers and All-Pros (Ramsey a first-teamer) last season. Gipson made the Pro Bowl in 2014 with Cleveland and felt slighted that he didn't make the Pro Bowl last season when he intercepted four passes and broke up seven others. He said that has fueled him since training camp began.

"I remember the day [the Pro Bowl roster was announced]. It is kind of like one of those things where you are happy for the guys that made it," Gipson said. "Every guy that made it on this team was deserving and rightfully so. Guys like Telvin [Smith] and 'Yan' [Yannick Ngakoue], I felt like I shouldn't have even had to be an alternate. It is part of the business, man. I did not put too much stock in it, but when you felt like you worked for something and you felt like you truly accomplished something, for it to be the way that it was, it was a little hurt.

"The beautiful thing about it is I remember back in 2014 no one knew who I was. I came out, caught six picks and was a Pro Bowler. Each year, you are able to give yourself a new identity. No one cares about what happened last year. A.J. [Bouye] came here as just a guy from Houston that we paid a lot of money and now everybody is talking about him as one of the best corners in the league. You just look at this -- each year is a new opportunity. ... We have some good safeties [in the AFC], but I feel like I'm up there. Matter of fact, I feel like I am the best when I am healthy. The things that I can do and the things that they allow me to do, it's going to be an exciting year."

He kicked it off Sunday against Gronkowski.