Photos courtesy of JOHN DERYCKE - Club Photographer

Browns Tale of Two Cornerbacks

The Cleveland Browns first practice with the Buffalo Bills was the tale of two cornerbacks, Tramon Williams and Justin Gilbert.

PITTSFORD, N.Y.— There was some good news and there was some bad news in the Browns secondary on the first day of joint practice with the Bills.

On Monday, the Browns were down seven defensive backs due to various injuries. That meant more work for those on the field.

Tramon Williams carried the load for the secondary and performed very well. Meanwhile, Justin Gilbert appeared to continue in his recent struggles.

Williams has been what the Browns needed and Mike Pettine acknowledged as much.

“That was a key signing for us to really stabilize that room, losing Buster (Skrine),” Pettine said. “Anytime you can bring a veteran guy that’s proven that he can play at a high level for a long time in this league. It’s a great example for our young guys, He can certainly still play now.

“I think he’s a great compliment to Joe (Haden),” he said. “He understands being opposite of Joe Haden he’s going to get a lot of throws his way, We understand that as a staff so we’ll do some things to help him out, to hopefully free him up that he can make some plays. I can’t say enough good things about him, he’s been the ultimate professional.”

Pettine scoffed at the notion that Williams is on the down side of his career.

“Is he really 32?” Pettine said. “No, I’m not surprised because he takes care of himself. He’s a guy that’s lasted this long and a lot if it is because of his intellect. Just to hear his conversations with Coach Hafley (secondary coach Jeff Hafley), Coach O’Neil (defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil) and the other DB’s it is detailed, high-level stuff about routes and wide-outs and things that he sees. To me that’s so good for our young guys.”

Williams enjoys the challenge.

“Just going out there and competing,” he said. “Anytime you get a chance to go against a different team, it should light a little fire under you. I just was ready to compete and came out and tried to get better.”

Williams season last year with the Packers ended on a play when he was beat for a 35-yard touchdown by Jermaine Kearse from Russell Wilson in overtime that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

“I use that example to some of the guys who feel down sometimes,” Williams said. “I am like, ‘Man, c’mon.’ It is just one of those things. Like you said, I have been experienced in this game for a long time. One of my strong points is to let that play go.

“Obviously, if I had another play at it, I would have been a lot happier,” he said. “That has always been one of my strong points. As a DB, you have to have that. You have to let the last play go and come out the next play.”

Meanwhile, Gilbert had a tough time in the one-on-one drills with the Bills wide receivers Monday morning as he was beat on several plays and it carried over into the team scrimmage. Pettine was asked what the coaches are able to do to help Gilbert.

“Yeah. That’s the life of a corner,” Pettine said. “You have to have that short term memory and be able to bounce back from a play. The best corners are confident corners and that’s something that comes from having success and if he’s in a little bit of a slump it’s on him. We have to help him but he has to play his way out of it.”

Gilbert was unavailable for comment. Williams--who was thought to be in a battle for the starting job with Gilbert—said it takes time to adjust to the NFL game. He said he had struggles early in his career. He feels Gilbert has time to turn his game around.

"No doubt about it,'' Williams said. "It is just about coming in and believing and competing, pay attention to details. Once you get through that, you will find yourself doing some good things. In his case, some of the things I see. He is in good position a lot of the times. He just has to figure out what it is and he will be better."

Williams said the more experience Gilbert gets, the better.

“It is just another opportunity for him,” he said. “At this position, you always want to get as many reps as you can. It is good for him to go through some of those trials right now. He will be better, trust me, no doubt about it. He’ll be good.”

Williams said the biggest thing for a young player is to lose their confidence.  

“He comes out and competes every day so you never know, but in this game, things are going to happen,” he said. “You have to find a way to keep that confidence up.”

Williams is trying to help the young cornerbacks, including Gilbert in a way he was helped as a undrafted rookie free agent coming into the NFL.

“When I first came into the league, I had the opportunity to learn from some great players – Charles Woodson, Al Harris, Nick Collins,” Williams said. “I had the opportunity to pick those guys brains and know what it is to be a pro. Hopefully, I can come and do the same thing here.”

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