This is the final installment of my three-part Thud series. The first was Johnny Manziel, and the second was Josh Gordon. Well, let’s get on to the next J: Justin Gilbert. For the record, I would like to give an honorable mention to Ben Tate, who I really thought was going to be the running back that I thought Trent Richardson was going to be. Ahhh, thus the life of a Browns fan. Moving on.
I will readily admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for defensive backs. Dee bees. Maybe it’s from falling in love with Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield. Maybe it was Ronnie Lott. And probably because of this soft spot, I wanted to really like Justin Gilbert, even though the Browns passed on Sammy Watkins, the guy I really wanted. I was so angry when the Browns traded out of the 4th pick. Typical Browns. Can’t just take the guy. Got to be a genius and get extra picks and have more guys with inferior talent.
But Gilbert was going to be a shutdown! Right?! He and Joe Haden were going to bring back those glory days of Dixon and Minnifield. The offense, which had 6 straight seasons of pinpoint ineptitude, wasn’t going to get any help – this was before the juggernaut Manziel was chosen, Mr. Part One of the Thud series – but at least we could slow down Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.
Well, Haden held up his end of the bargain, though it took two or three games to get there. Gilbert? Sometimes he couldn’t even get on the field.
Everyone is praising Buster Skrine for being a much-improved cornerback this season, but it may have just been the contrast of watching him compared to seeing Gilbert stumble around in coverage like an extra from Dawn of the Dead. He lost the starting job he was handed. Then he lost his back-up role. Pierre Desir, taken in the 4th round, and K’Waun Williams, not taken in any round, both outplayed our shutdown corner.
I can’t see this guy being a starter. I know that he only just finished his rookie season, but his defense should not be that bad. Yes, wiley veterans will use tricks to get open, but it seemed apparent that running in a straight line could get you open against Gilbert.
Let me ask you something about our two first-round draft picks: If you had to vote right now for which player is going to be the bigger bust – Manziel or Gilbert – who would you choose? It’s easy to say Manziel because he had so much hype behind him, but that’s just it: Gilbert had no hype to live up to. And he still failed miserably. Besides, I could see Manziel making himself a serviceable quarterback if he maybe grew up and acted more responsible. Hey, Johnny, you know who else liked to party? Ryan Leaf. Go see how that turned out.
As far as being a letdown, definitely Manziel was the biggest Thud of the year, with Gordon pulling a close second for the same reason: Hype. Except at least Gordon had actually done something in the NFL. Gilbert had very little expectation – besides where he was drafted – to live up to.
Because of that, Gilbert was a big letdown of his own. And now Manziel and Gilbert are telling the media that THIS offseason, they’re going to buckle down and take it seriously. THIS offseason. Where was that LAST offseason?!
Can he do it? Can Gilbert get back on track? Wait, not “back”….just “on track”? I don’t know. I’m certainly not hopeful. Joe Haden was not like this as a rookie. Nowhere close. Joe Haden is a shutdown corner. Justin Gilbert is not. He’s a Thud.