The Browns have spent a lot of time since the draft discussing their plans for the quarterback position after drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round.
Manziel wasn’t their only first-round pick, though, and he’s not the only one trying to earn a starting job sooner rather than later. Cornerback Justin Gilbert was the eighth overall selection in May and the team has been focused on working with him on the fundamentals of the press-man coverage they want their outside cornerbacks to play.
Joe Haden has one starting spot locked down and Buster Skrine has been working across from him for now, but defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil says that Gilbert will have “every opportunity to win” the gig during training camp. Coach Mike Pettine said that it is a “huge advantage” to have two corners who are strong in man coverage and that Gilbert is learning what it takes to do that in the NFL.
“He’s on the learning curve,” Pettine said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “He’s kind of put himself in some situations where he’s testing his ability to make up [ground against receivers]. I think a lot of corners — I don’t want to say play scared — but they’ll stay on top, and they get beat underneath a lot. I think the elite guys can let a guy get slightly past them, but know with their make-up speed and their length that they can still make a play on the ball. I think that’s what this time is for. [He’s] kind of testing his limits and getting used to the speed of the NFL game and NFL receivers.”
Skrine is not that kind of corner, so Gilbert’s chances of winning that job are going to be good as long as he shows the potential to give Pettine and the Browns what they want in the secondary. His bid won’t garner nearly as much coverage as Manziel’s push for a starting job, but the benefits to the Browns will be enormous if Gilbert can make throwing to both sides of the field a losing proposition for opposing offenses.