The Cleveland Browns could be without their top cornerback for a key divisional game.
The status of Joe Haden for this coming Sunday's home game against Pittsburgh is "potentially in the air" because of a hip injury, coach Mike Pettine said on Monday.
When discussing first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert, who has had a difficult rookie season and played nine snaps in Sunday's 29-28 win over Tennessee, Pettine said Gilbert might have to play because of Haden's shaky status.
Haden suffered a hip injury in Nashville but didn't miss a snap. He was evaluated on Monday but Pettine didn't provide details of his status at his news conference.
Gilbert, meanwhile, has seen his snaps reduced from 59 in the opener to 47 to 14 to nine. Undrafted rookie K'Waun Williams has outplayed him. Williams played 36 snaps Sunday, mostly as a nickel corner with Haden and Buster Skrine on the outside.
Pettine said he prefers not to move outside corners inside and vice versa, which means if he wants to keep Williams inside, he'll likely have to play Gilbert outside.
Gilbert has struggled with penalties and giving up big plays, including a 24-yard reception by Markus Wheaton to set up Pittsburgh's game-winning field goal in Week 1, but a first-round pick with raw talent will get every chance to succeed.
"Practice -- just keep getting after it," said Pettine on what Gilbert needs to do to crack the lineup. "We haven't given up on Justin -- it's just something he has to work through."
If gamesmanship is in play here, maybe Pettine expects Haden to play but wants to keep Gilbert on edge with his public comments. The Browns must do what it takes to motivate the prized investment that clearly has athletic talent.
Perhaps it's too early to overreact, but such a drastic drop in snaps is alarming for Gilbert, whom the Browns traded down to draft at No. 8.