Cleveland Browns: Howard Wilson reaps benefits with no surgery

Cleveland Browns rookie Howard Wilson suffered a fractured kneecap, but won’t undergo surgery. A late-season return would be great for his development.

The Cleveland Browns got themselves a potential steal in rookie fourth-round pick Howard Wilson. The Houston product has length (he’s 6-1 and 184 pounds) and a knack for finding the football. Wilson had 10 passes defended and five interceptions in 2016 alone.

Unfortunately, Wilson won’t be contributing to the Browns early in the season, as he suffered a pretty serious injury in rookie minicamp. The injury was a serious blow for a Browns team that was looking to rely on its rookie class early and often.

Not long after Wilson’s injury, the Browns added veteran cornerback Jason McCourty to a two-year deal. The move reunites McCourty with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams

As it turns out, however, Wilson’s injury and McCourty’s signing might not close the book on the rookie’s 2017 campaign. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Wilson won’t undergo surgery and could return in as few as 12 weeks:

Even if Wilson takes the full four months to recover, he could be back on the practice field by October. If so, the Browns may be able to get him some game action over the second half of the season. It would be great for Wilson’s development if they can.

Wilson is a cornerback with a lot of upside, but he doesn’t have a ton of playing experience. A torn ACL cost him most of his 2015 season, and he wasn’t a standout starter the year before.

Getting Wilson experience as a rookie will be key for his progress as a pro. Fortunately, the Browns are in a position to play the rookie even if he struggles early. Cleveland isn’t expected to do a lot of winning this season, so the 2017 campaign is going to be about building for the future.

Wilson can be a part of that future, especially if he can get some game experience sooner than later. By getting him on the field now, the Browns can also figure out where he fits in the defense moving forward. He needs reps to become a completed commodity. However, taking a bit of time to develop is also on the Browns’ timeline.

By the time Cleveland is actually ready to compete — hopefully in 2018 — Wilson should have some seasoning and the Browns should have a bigger book on him. If Wilson had undergone surgery and was looking at a full year recovery, he would essentially still be a rookie next year and a complete unknown.

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