Jim O’Neil on Justin Gilbert: It takes time to learn how to play corner in the NFL

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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.

26 responses to “Jim O’Neil on Justin Gilbert: It takes time to learn how to play corner in the NFL

  1. Not to pile on, but… when was the last time the Browns actually hit on their 1st-round pick? Joe Thomas?

  2. Gilbert has a great mentor with Haden there. I don’t know what his off-field issues are / were. But success in this game is all about comitment of both head and heart. Pretty much everyone in the league has the athletic ability.

    If Gilbert succeeds it will be due to more than just gaining experience. Sounds like a lifestyle / attitude check are in order.

  3. The last rookie corner to have success in his first season was probably Joe Haden. Which is part of the reason why the expectations for Gilbert were so (unreasonably) high. I’m glad to hear O’Neil sees a future for the kid.

  4. Horsehockey. It wasn’t the position that stumped Gilbert. Bradley Roby played quite a bit for the Broncos and at a much higher level than Gilbert. This was just another bad draft for the Browns. There were pre draft questions about his maturity and commitment to the game. Factory of Sadness turning into the Factory of CYA. BTW is wasn’t just “not successful”, it was a full on shibacle.

  5. @patsbrat

    Haden good mentor really? He got suspended for PED’S and hurt his team two years ago.

  6. Ballboy. Taylor solid? He played 10 games in 2 years and can’t walk. You must be working in the browns front office.

  7. I’m so sick of hearing the “Factory of Sadness” referrals! You make yourself sound like idiots! Get a life and don’t say anything if you can’t say something positive!

  8. brownsfan39, unfortunately you’re going to continue to hear it until the team does something right. If you’re going to get upset at someone, get upset with the team owner and the front office people. As a Bengals fan, I know what you are
    going through!

    Bengals fans still have to put up with the use of
    “Bungles”. Mike Brown finally figured out a few
    years back that going down to the local drug store
    and buying up all the copies of “Lindy’s NFL Draft
    Edition” magazines and going through them looking
    for potential draft picks in March wasn’t working
    and made some changes. 🙂

  9. And still haven’t won a playoff game since 1991! 🙂

    As for starting a CB in their rookie year. That’s a tough
    spot to be put into. Bengals have taken CB’s in the
    first round in 2012 (Dre Kirkpatrick) and again last
    year (2014), (Darqueze Dennard).

    Kirkpatrick has made about 2 or 3 starts. I think
    Dennard played about 60 snaps total last year.

    Better to ease them in if at all possible unless they
    are “stars” right off the bat, ie: Deion Sanders or
    Champ Bailey or Darelle Revis types.

    Helps to have decent vets ahead of the youngsters
    though. I expect Kirkpatrick to get quite a bit of
    playing time this year.

  10. I can’t remember a rookie corner that’s had a successful season in his first year, O’Neil said..

    Umm Yes, Haden is good, but the best sucessful for rookie goes to Darrell Revis… Look at the stats…

  11. Whodey420

    Browns beat Patriots jan 1, 1994 in cleveland in the playoffs.

    Brownsfan39: grow up you baby. Wah everyone rips on my Browns. What do you expect praise for total incompetence? I rip on them constantly for their dumb decisions and incompetence. Doesnt mean im not a fan. It means im sick and tired of them screwing up every damn draft

  12. Platypus said:

    Even Richard Sherman backed up Marcus Trufant his rookie year.

    Actually, no he didn’t. Trufant played the slot in 2011. He backed up Walter Thurmond. When Thurmond went down with injury after half the season Sherman got his shot and played lights out the final 8 games. Had he played the whole season his numbers would have been comparable to all the other years.

    The irony with Jim O’Neil is that he seems to have a short memory. Granted he wasn’t on the team 5 years ago when Holmgren selected Joe Haden for the Browns. But Haden had as fine a rookie year for a CB as anyone. He should know better than to say he can’t remember the last corner that played well right away. In fact, Haden arguably hasn’t had a year that he’s played as well as his first year in the league. He’s had good years since, but for whatever reason his rookie year stands out as his best.

    Notice a trend? The elite corners tend to be pretty damn good their first year. Revis was fantastic in 2007 too.

    I think it’s safe to say Gilbert is not an elite corner. Sounds like Jim O’Neil is trying to excuse his poor rookie season by saying no corner is good their first year. The claim is just laughable but I don’t blame him. Giving up on Gilbert so soon would be conceding that they flushed another 1st round pick down the drain.

  13. pleasestopthesnow says:
    Apr 6, 2015 10:54 PM

    Browns beat Patriots jan 1, 1994 in cleveland in the playoffs.

    Good for the Browns. I was referring to the Bengals as the team that still hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991.

  14. Interesting that O’Neil attributes all of Gilbert’s difficulties to the NFL learning curve and had nothing to do with his immaturity or lack of work ethic. What a 180 from what we were hearing about how Gilbert failed because he wasn’t committed to working. Weird to now hear that those were not contributing factors. I gues then we should no longer hold Gilbert responsible for the failure because it was simply the learning curve. That would then mean we should really question whether O’Neil is a good enough coach to not get a good performance out of an ultra-dedicated player.

  15. nice draft pick! my wife could draft better then the Browns and she doesn’t know what a first down is…..she would just pick players from a draft book and ill bet you team would be way better…

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