3 defensive MVPs for the Patriots after first half of season
3. Stephon Gilmore
No matter what Jalen Ramsey might try to tell you, he’s not the best cornerback in the NFL today. That prestigious honor belongs to Stephon Gilmore, and the competition really isn’t that close in 2019.
Ramsey has missed time this year for all manner of personal reasons… though he looks like he’s finally healthy and happy now that he saw his wish granted and got traded out of Jacksonville. Unless he comes on extra-strong in the remainder of the season for the Rams though, the mantle of the No. 1 corner in the league belongs squarely on the capable shoulders of the soft-spoken Gilmore.
The eighth-year player out of South Carolina leads all New England cornerbacks in interceptions this season with three. He should have had four at this point, but he let an errant throw from Baker Mayfield slip right through his fingers last Sunday… and it apparently ruined his night.
“I should’ve picked that. I’m not going to sleep tonight for that. I’m not going to sleep,” Gilmore told reporters after the game, according to USA Today’s Henry McKenna.
If it helps Gilmore sleep any easier, his missed opportunity at snagging a fourth pick this season didn’t cost his team the game by any stretch of the imagination. The Patriots still defeated Mayfield’s Browns by a two-touchdown margin.
And yet Gilmore’s words are indicative of the kind of season that he’s having – and that this defense is having as a whole. Gilmore and the Patriots aren’t lamenting mistakes that cost them wins; they’re lamenting mistakes that cost them style points during those wins.
Gilmore’s season is all the more impressive when you consider how regularly he’s been assigned the opposing team’s top receiver in man-to-man looks. His victims in 2019 include JuJu Smith-Schuster, Robby Anderson (twice), John Brown, Terry McLaurin, and Odell Beckham Jr… amongst a host of other pass-catchers who have had the misfortune of drawing his blanket coverage. Future adversaries will get tougher down the road (DeAndre Hopkins, Amari Cooper, Alshon Jeffery, etc.), but Gilmore certainly looks like he’s up to the challenge so far.
His play has even garnered the notice of one of the all-time greats at his position… a guy who coincidentally used to wear his No. 24 for a very brief period of time up in New England.
When seven-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis is shouting you out on Twitter, you know you’re playing the cornerback position the right way.
Really the only question at this point is whether Gilmore will be able to increase his gaudy stat totals this season over the remaining eight games of the season. He might face some of the stiffest competition in the league from his very own teammates – Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and J.C. Jackson – each of whom has at least one or two takeaways this season.
Between the four of them, Bill Belichick can feel comfortable and confident dialing up as many zero-blitzes as he’d like this year. He knows his cornerback group is miles better than any other group of CBs in the league right now, and it all starts at the top with the phenomenal play of Gilmore.