Stephon Gilmore enters the 2020 season as arguably the best player on the New England Patriots roster — and it might not even be close.
If the New England Patriots go as Stephon Gilmore goes in 2020, they just might be alright.
The 29-year-old star cornerback out of South Carolina is gearing up for his ninth season in the NFL. A former first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, Gilmore signed with the Patriots on a five-year, $65 million contract back in the spring of 2017.
Three years into the deal, and it looks like the Pats are getting their money’s worth so far.
He started somewhat slowly with his new team back in 2017, coming on strong at the end of the season — especially with a key pass deflection in the AFC Championship Game that year against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gilmore built on that January momentum and carried it over into his second season in New England. He set a new career high for himself with 20 passes defended that year. “Gilly” also had two interceptions, one sack, and a game-clinching pick off Jared Goff in Super Bowl 53 that helped the Patriots win their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
The third time was the charm, though, for Gilmore. In 2019, he won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award after he again tallied 20 passes defended, improved his interception total to six (a career high), and scored two defensive touchdowns. He became the first New England Patriot to win the award — and the first cornerback since Charles Woodson won it 10 years prior.
Now Gilmore returns for his fourth season with the Patriots as arguably the best cornerback in the league — and he’s also in the running as the best player on New England’s roster right now.
He should once again be the strength of this defense, shutting down opposing receivers and wiping away half the field against enemy offenses and quarterbacks. Gilmore may be quiet, but he’s certainly revered by his teammates and fans alike as the lynchpin in the Patriots’ standout defensive secondary.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
Gilmore continues to play at a supremely high level, again locking down the receivers he’s tasked with shadowing and making life miserable for quarterbacks around the league.
It may be hard for New England’s defense to replicate the kind of success they had in 2019 — particularly in the first half of the season — simply because the quarterbacks they’re scheduled to face this year are so much better than the ones they drew last year.
Still, the Patriots D will be the star of the show this year. How the defense does, the team does; and how Gilmore does, the defense does.
The best-case scenario would be for “Gilly Lock” to repeat as NFL Defensive Player of the Year, notching even more interceptions this season and creating more highlights and havoc in a star-studded New England secondary.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
It’s hard to imagine Gilmore regressing or having a “bad” season at this point in his career. Even well before he ever arrived in Foxborough, he was generally considered to be one of the better cornerbacks in the game today.
Realistically, a worst-case scenario obviously would be an injury that takes him out of the lineup. Outside of that, it would be worrisome if the murderer’s row of QBs the Patriots face this year — Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, etc. — flat-out ignored Gilmore altogether and targeted other New England corners.
That said, the rest of the Patriots defensive backs group is extremely solid, even if they’re not quite at Gilmore’s level.
Really, it’s only the threat of injury that should have New England fans worried when it comes to Gilmore’s fortunes this season — and he’s played at least double-digit regular season games every year that he’s been in the pros, so that’s encouraging, too.
Expect another strong showing in 2020 from Stephon Gilmore, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.