CLEVELAND - There wasn't much to take from the 2012 season for the Browns other than another coaching change.
Picking through the rubble of a 5-11 season, a few bright things were discovered. One was the play of free safety Tashaun Gipson, who progressed from rookie free agent to starter.
Gipson caught the attention of former coach Pat Shurmur during training camp. He worked his way on the field via special teams and started three games.
Gipson is now practicing with the first-team defense next to strong safety T.J. Ward. He's receiving competition from Johnson Bademosi, another undrafted rookie last season, but unless Gipson's practice play suddenly drops off, he'll be the starter in the opener against the Miami Dolphins.
"I've been pleased with Tashaun," coach Rob Chudzinski said. "He's really shown a lot from a coverage standpoint in the last couple of days. He's a solid player. He's smart and he works at it. He has good football sense, and he's shown some good coverage skills."
Gipson failed to hear his name called in the draft last year after finishing his college career at the University of Wyoming. Because of the lockout by NFL owners, none of the undrafted rookies had a chance to catch on with teams in the spring.
The lack of offseason practice time worked against Gipson and other rookies early in camp. That's all behind Gipson now as he targets a major role.
"Honestly I want to come in here and make a leap from year one to two," Gipson said. "I'm not on a personal vendetta to prove anything to anyone. I want to come in here and show the coaches that I'm a valuable player and that they can depend on me."
The secondary was considered a weak area entering camp. Joe Haden is set as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks, and Ward will start at strong safety. The other half of the starting equation remains unsettled. There's the Gipson-Bademosi battle, along with competition among Leon McFadden, Buster Skrine and Chris Owens at right cornerback.
The hope last season was for Eric Hagg to settle in at free safety after showing promise in 10 games as a rookie in 2011. Hagg had a bad performance trying to stay with Bengals receiver A.J. Green in a week two loss, and it went down hill from there. He was waived in the offseason.
"Honestly I know I have the talent to do it," Gipson said. "It's all about proving everybody wrong. At the end of the day I'm going to have my shot, and then we'll see what everyone says."
Bademosi played some corner last season but the new coaching staff decided to switch him to the back end. He's been around the ball a lot in the early practice sessions.
"He's making progress on a day-to-day basis," Chudzinski said. "It's a matter of him getting comfortable at the new position. It's something he's never played before. He's progressing. Everyone is going to have ups and downs and good days and bad days. The key is to learn and keep going in the right direction."
For Gipson, the journey from last season to where he's at now has been a blast.
"Honestly, it's a dream come true," he said. "I couldn't have scripted it any better. Last year if someone had told me I'd be starting this year I probably wouldn't have taken it seriously. I'm blessed to be in this situation. I'm taking advantage of it and not looking back."