Cornerback Justin Gilbert had a rough rookie year after the Browns made him a first-round pick.
There was criticism of his play on the field, his lack of maturity off of it and coach Mike Pettine discussing “very personal” issues that also contributed to Gilbert’s struggles. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil tackled one segment of those problems while discussing Gilbert heading into Year Two and said that he’s “very optimistic” that a year’s worth of experience will serve Gilbert well on the field.
“I think that expectations for corners in this league for first year are always a lot higher than they should be. I can’t remember a rookie corner that’s had a successful season in his first year,” O’Neil said, via the team’s website. “I know nobody wants to hear this, but it takes time, it takes time to learn how to play corner in the NFL. Quarterbacks are too good, receivers are too good.”
The expectations may be lessened for Gilbert this year with Tramon Williams on board to go with Joe Haden and Pierre Desir at corner, so that may help Gilbert find his footing between the lines. The problems went well beyond that last season, though, and it’s a lot harder to trace a reliable improvement curve on the off-field front.