Trevis Gipson celebrated both of his sacks of Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. But only in the moment.
“It felt good to get him, man. But I just couldn’t really soak it all in, because we lost the game,” Gipson said. “Those were good plays and obviously I took those into account in my game and what I can do and what’s successful for me. But it’s going to come down to us working as a team. When those plays do happen, we can soak ’em in more and appreciate them in a win.”
Gipson, a 2020 fifth-round draft pick who had seven sacks last season, is a key component of a pass rush that depends on the defensive line to pressure the quarterback. Matt Eberflus’ defenses with the Colts ranked last in the NFL in blitz percentage in 2021 (12.1%), 2020 (16.3%) and 2019 (13.7%) and 30th in 2018 (17%).
“We believe in the four-man rush,” Eberflus said. “We believe in dropping seven guys in coverage and having our four-man rush get pressure. We will pressure at times –certainly situationally and on first and second down –but that’s been our philosophy.
Gipson, 25, has been a pleasant surprise since he was drafted, emerging as a productive pass rusher following an apprenticeship season learning behind veterans Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn.
His flexibility and coach-ability have been keys to his opportunity and success. Though Gipson was a 4-3 defensive end at Tulsa, he transitioned into a 3-4 outside linebacker under Chuck Pagano and Sean Desai. And when Eberflus was hired, Gipson went back to being a 4-3 defensive end. So far, he looks like a good fit for this defense. And he has the perfect trait for success under Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams
“Positive attitude — that goes a long way,” Williams said when asked about Gipson’s developmental arc. “I know you’re probably alluding to athletic ability, but I never take the positive attitude and work ethic for granted –and those are two things that give him a chance to be a really good player.
“He’s long and he’s bought into our philosophy of how hard we play and how we run to the ball and he’s been productive, so that’s always a plus.”
That positive attitude is part of the H.I.T.S. philosophy that is the foundation of everything Eberflus and Willams do with their defense. It’s not just hustle and intensity, but perseverance.
“Early on, he may not have had as much production,” Williams said, “and he kept working at it. He kept coming in early. He stays late. Around here, what we want to do is preach the process and not be so product-oriented, so he did that — and we’re starting to see the fruits of his labor.”
Young pass rushers come and go in the NFL — some have immediate success they cannot sustain. Gipson has nine sacks in his last 16 games. Now comes the hard part — continuing to be effective when opponents are aware of you.
“It’s sort of not playing checkers, but chess. You always want to stay one move ahead,” said Gipson, an actual chess player.”I have shown some tendencies in my pass and run game that even my coaches have told me about, that I can mask a little bit more,” Gipson said. “That’s going to be one thing I try to focus on.
“As far as my pass rush, even if guys know what I’m going to do, it’s still going to be up to them to stop it. I’m going to have counters … and hopefully make success off of that.”