CLEVELAND — Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert did not impress fans last season and his pre-season performances so far left little to be desired.
He keeps getting beat on several plays and at times he looked confused. He didn’t do a great job on staying in tight coverage. This weakness was repeated several times on Cleveland sports radio talk shows.
Will the Browns simply cut his role to punt returns? It is a known fact that in spite of his shoddy coverage, Gilbert possesses great athleticism when he has the football. He has plenty of speed so the Browns can use him to win the field position battle. The counter argument to that is Travis Benjamin can also be a weapon on punt and kick returns.
The Browns will likely be patient with Gilbert and let him develop. In fact, keeping Gilbert around until the last week of the November 3rd trade deadline is likely the best option. After all, this is Gilbert’s second year so it would seem unfair to trade him now.
This is a matter of the Browns needing to develop contingency plans and not trade him before the season begins. Even Joe Haden struggled his rookie year before showing some improvement in his second season. It is possible Gilbert will do the same so the Browns should do their due diligence and allow him to develop before making a sudden trade.
Gilbert has the athleticism to be an elite corner. He is fast and very quick on his feet. It looks he needs to adjust to the NFL level and increase his pass coverage knowledge and skills. If that is the case, then Gilbert just needs more time and experience.
Will he pan out or will receivers continue to dominate him?
Should the Browns trade Gilbert just before the trade deadline if he doesn’t show some improvement? What can the Browns receive for him? One trade the Browns could make is Justin Gilbert and the 2015 5th round pick to St. Louis for Tavon Austin. The Browns can use some depth at receiver and they have plenty of depth at cornerback.
Giving up Gilbert and perhaps one draft pick won’t the Browns at all. In fact, trading Gilbert for a receiver could help.
How can Austin help? He has not done a lot for the Rams. What Browns may forget is that Austin is poised for a breakout season with the Rams trading for quarterback Nick Foles. Austin no longer has to worry about having an injury prone quarterback throwing to him and not completing the NFL season. Sam Bradford kept getting hurt so that hindered Austin’s development.
It is important to remember that there is no trade talk at this time.
Gilbert will stay with the Browns for now and be given a chance to develop and hone his skills. It is tough to trade a first-round pick so soon. The Browns traded Trent Richardson to the Colts in his second season so trading Gilbert this season is not a far-fetched possibility.