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CB Zyon Gilbert could be on the outside looking in for Giants

Gilbert will try and build on last year’s small sample size

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants were already thin at cornerback when Adoree’ Jackson went down with an injury late last year. But that lack of talent allowed undrafted free agent Zyon Gilbert to play meaningful snaps after being elevated from the practice squad.

Now that the Giants have invested a first-round pick in the position by drafting Deonte Banks and used a sixth-round pick on Tre Hawkins III, the competition for playing time will be even tougher. Let’s take a closer look at Gilbert and assess whether he’ll have the chance to continue to develop.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 182
Age: 24
Position: CB
Experience: 1
Contract: One-year, $870,000 deal | 2023 cap hit: $870,000

Career to date

Gilbert played 57 games as both a cornerback and safety in a five-season career at Florida Atlantic University. He graduated with five interceptions, 26 passes defended and an honorable mention on the C-USA All-Conference Team.

Before the draft, Gilbert appeared on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” based on his 42-inch vertical jump and 136-inch broad jump. Pro Football Network called him the “top of that embarrassment of riches” from Florida Atlantic:

Positives: Long, physical corner who is best facing the action. Keeps plays in front of him, does a terrific job recognizing routes, and displays a solid burst to the ball out of his plant. Battles receivers throughout the route, plays faster than his 40 time, and works well with teammates in the secondary. Quickly makes his way up the field and gives effort defending the run.

Negatives: Rarely gets his head back around to locate the pass in the air. Hesitant reacting to receivers’ moves off the line and slow in transition. Not a sturdy corner.

He signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent last year and spent most of the season on the practice squad.

Gilbert made three appearances last year with one start after Jackson suffered a leg injury. He recorded a sack and 14 tackles in 73 snaps and was elevated to the main roster during the Giants’ Divisional Round game against the Eagles. He saw the most action in Week 13 against Washington, but allowed 71 receiving yards and a touchdown in that game.

2023 outlook

While a main roster spot isn’t completely out of the question, it’s difficult to see where Gilbert fits in. The Giants drafted Banks in the first round and likely expect last year’s third-round pick Cor’Dale Flott to step into a bigger role. Jackson will return as a starter, and Gilbert only saw the field in his absence.

And even if the other cornerbacks on the roster aren’t particularly inspiring, there’s a simply a lot of them just in number alone. Players like Darnay Holmes, Rodarius Williams, Aaron Robinson and Nick McCloud have a higher pedigree than Gilbert just based on experience.

Gilbert is physically gifted (even if he could stand to bulk up a bit more) and has the talent to develop into a rotational piece on the roster. But until he shows more on the field, the odds are against that happening.