Opportunity knocks, and Trevis Gipson answers

The 2020 fifth-round pick’s apprenticeship behind Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn is paying dividends in his second season, with 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Is there more to come?

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Bears outside linebacker Trevis Gipson (99) sacks Giants quarterback Mike Glennon (2), forcing a fumble that teammate Bilal Nichols recovered. Gipson had another strip-sack in the third quarter to give him 6.5 sacks this season.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photos

Every pass rusher relishes those moments when they see the opportunity for a big play. But on the first snap of the game?

Bears outside linebacker Trevis Gipson couldn’t believe his eyes last week when the Giants opened the game with an empty backfield and left him a clear path to quarterback Mike Glennon.

“It sort of caught me by surprise that they went empty on the first play of the game,” Gipson said. “We’ve got Rob Quinn rushing his life out on the other side, so that did surprise me. The kick slide and let me free. My eyes got big at the opportunity, and I had to take advantage of it.”

Indeed he did. Gipson took his free shot at Glennon, hit the former Bears quarterback and forced a fumble that defensive end Bilal Nichols recovered at the Giants’ 14-yard line and returned to the 2. Running back David Montgomery scored on the next play for a 7-0 led en route to an easy 29-3 victory at Soldier Field.

Gipson added another strip-sack of Glennon in the third quarter that rookie nose tackle Khyiris Tonga recovered. That gave him 6½ sacks for the season and four forced fumbles. As a rookie last year, Gipson played 71 defensive snaps and did not have a sack.

It’s all about opportunity for almost any NFL player, and Gipson appears ready to take advantage.

Though he was a fifth-round draft pick, Gipson had the advantage of not only coming into an established defense, but one with two of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn.

“It’s a great opportunity and a great blessing to play behind those two guys — two gold jackets [Hall of Fame] soon to be,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else. A lot of guys say, ‘I want to play. I want to do this and that.’ But I’m literally behind two pass rushers that probably are top-five in the league. There’s technique, film — I get to watch their steps every day, from sun-up to sun-down. I’m in a great position and I honestly couldn’t be more appreciative.”

Gipson’s two strip-sacks last week are a byproduct of playing behind Mack and Quinn. “I don’t think [Mack] even cares about the quarterback. He cares about the ball,” Gipson said. “Hearing that repetitively in our room from those guys I think’s just sort of setting in on me — like, you can still get the sack-fumble if you hit the ball. You don’t just have to get the sack.

“That’s something I take into my pass rush, and I’m appreciative of those guys and what they are preaching all the time.”

When Mack was put on injured reserve in Week 8 with a foot injury that required surgery, Gipson’s snap count increased, and so did his production — 4½ sacks in the last seven games.

“Now I can finally say we’re probably cousins,” namesake safety Tashaun Gipson said. “He’s done enough out there now . . . a guy like Trev [has] made huge strides from last year to now. And I think next year is going to be a phenomenal year. He’s getting his feet wet. He’s playing with confidence. That is beautiful to see.”

The 6-4, 263-pound Gipson still has a long way to go. But defensive coordinator Sean Desai is hopeful he can develop an all-around game — including run-stopping and pass coverage — that keeps Mack and Quinn on the field for most of the game.

“We hope so,” Desai said. “That’s going to be up to him. The way he’s trending and growing in this defense and taking the coaching and accepting those responsibilities, we certainly hope he could continue to develop that way.”

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