Chicago Bears second-year edge defender Trevis Gipson is making the most of his increased playing time with Khalil Mack out for the rest of the season with a foot injury, and he may have had his best game as a pro on a national stage in the Bears’ Thanksgiving win over the Detroit Lions.
Gipson was the Bears’ second-highest graded defender in the victory with an 85.6 mark from Pro Football Focus. It was his second-best grade of the season, but considering the increased reps since his previous high watermark in Week 4, Thursday’s performance was an encouraging sign that the former fifth-round pick is emerging as a quality starting edge rusher and critical piece of Chicago’s rebuilding efforts.
Gipson now has three sacks in his sophomore season following a rookie year when he failed to get to the quarterback once and only appeared in seven games. In Week 12, Gipson made his fourth start of 2021. He’s been quite the return from a fifth-round investment, which has pretty much been the calling card of general manager Ryan Pace’s tenure with the Bears. Remember, the Bears added Darnell Mooney in the same round a year ago; Gipson was the 155th pick, Mooney went 173rd.
Gipson slid to the fifth round that April because he was generally considered a raw and still-developing player. His tools, however, were easy to see, and The Draft Network’s Joe Marino hit his evaluation out of the park in the run-up to draft weekend that year:
“From the standpoint of burst, length, and flexibility, Gipson has a wonderful foundation to develop, especially as a pass rusher,” Marino wrote. “With that said, he is severely lacking core strength and lower body power to hold up at the point of attack. His contact balance is very poor. In addition, fine-tuning his hand technique will be necessary to reach his ceiling at the next level. I am not confident Gipson can see the field as a rookie but he might be worth the wait in a year or two.”
Gipson certainly has been worth the wait. As Marino noted, Gipson had weaknesses that needed work, and he’s proving that he’s taken to pro coaching, strength and conditioning, and on-field reps.
Check out this play against the Lions. It’s a great example of Gipson’s situational awareness and play-making ability:
His development as a player can be seen as both a run and pass defender this year. First, the pass rush:
Next, the run defense:
Mack’s season-ending injury was and continues to be a big blow to Chicago, but Gipson’s development is critical for the Bears’ defense moving forward. Mack and Robert Quinn will likely remain Chicago’s starting tandem of edge rushers in 2022, but Gipson’s emergence gives the team fantastic flexibility and depth at a critical position—and by the time the 2021 season comes to an end, he might just prove he’s too good to go back to the bench.
That would be a great problem for the Bears to have, especially with the expectation that the primary area of focus in both free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft will be on offense. Having an ascending talent like Gipson creates confidence that the defense has three young and highly talented players on all three levels (Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson being the other two).
Despite a 4-7 record and the 2021 playoffs appearing out of reach, Gipson has been a bright spot for the Bears in a season that, surprisingly, has produced quite a few.