NFL Wire News

Underwhelming rookies still in Browns’ plans


Despite the struggles of rookie first-round picks Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert this season, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine isn’t giving up on the two.

This week, Manziel acknowledged that he needed to take the job more seriously. As for Gilbert, team leaders have pointed to the cornerback’s lack of professionalism.

Gilbert, the No. 8 overall pick, has seen his playing time diminish in recent weeks. Manziel suffered a hamstring injury in his first start last week in a loss to the Carolina Panthers and will sit out the regular-season finale on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravels.

“Are we ready to write both of those players off as busts because they didn’t produce as rookies?” Pettine said, according to the The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. “I’m not anywhere near that point. That’s just a knee-jerk. Some rookies come in and play right away. Others it takes some time.”

Manziel pleaded his case earlier in the week, saying he shouldn’t be judged on his limited playing time this year.

Pettine agreed.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Pettine said. “I just think that’s being created that we’re looking to write him off already. He’s a player on our roster. He’s going to have every opportunity to compete next year. But that, to me, is so far in the future. We’ll assess it all when we get done and every position will be addressed.”

But Pettine isn’t ready to say Manziel, who was the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, is the starter for the future.

“I can’t speak on going forward,” Pettine said. “It’s all hands on deck for Sunday. And we have plenty of time to assess, we’ll take some time off as coaches, we’ll get together with the personnel staff early in January and go through the roster A to Z, prioritize needs, rank it, look at available.

“You look at everything. but just still with a game to go, it’d be unfair to sit here and try to talk about a position for next year.”

Pettine didn’t seem alarmed by Manziel saying he didn’t take his job seriously enough this year.

I think all rookies go through it … most rookies are shocked by the speed of the game or the challenge it brings,” Pettine said. “You’re going from being a student where football is essentially a part time thing to this is your 9-to-5 plus. You might as well carry a briefcase. It’s your job. It does probably shock more guys than it doesn’t.”

In regard to Gilbert, “It’s not his ability, but it’s a lot of little things,” Pettine said. “It’s how he prepares each week. It’s just a lot of stuff that’s internal and our guys see it.”

Pettine expects to see more productivity from the rookies next year.

“I just think that big jump is made for a lot of those guys — like what Johnny talked about — just the NFL was more than they thought,” Pettine said. “For some, it just takes times to adjust to it, so I’m confident that all of our guys, especially going through a new system in year one because I know we’ll be better as a staff next year, as well.”

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