Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi believes cornerback Stephon Gilmore deserves more respect from NFL referees.
In a bizarre turn of events, the New England Patriots’ offense, not the defense, will seemingly be the team’s strength this season. Last year, the D ranked first across the board in seemingly every major statistical category, including yards (275.9) and points (14.1) allowed per game.
To be fair, Bill Belichick’s defense lost a profusion of starters to both free agency and player opt outs, but it still has a handful of playmakers who care capable of making it a formidable group.
However, that just hasn’t been the case through the first three weeks of 2020 as the defense ranks 12th in the NFL in yards (357.7) and 11th in points (22.0) per game. Those numbers can be traced back to the struggles of the secondary, which — outside of safety Patrick Chung — returned all of its starters from last season.
More specifically, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the undisputed leader of the group, has shockingly been burned on a consistent basis so far. While there’s no denying that he has to be better in coverage, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi believes Gilmore deserves more respect from referees.
"“I think you have to look at it and realize what teams are thinking,” said Bruschi. “I think what they see is they are not afraid to challenge him — what D.K. Metcalf did, what the penalties are showing. You can feel within the course of a game, or even watching it, that there’s a certain defensive player that gets benefits of the doubt — a tug here, a pass interference there — you get a call here and there. I think Stephon deserves a little bit more respect from the officials, in terms of being the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Sometimes you have a right to play aggressively, but (the refs) don’t see him in that light, I think.”"
The former three-time champion made some really strong points here and he continued to do so in noting that Ty Law, a Patriots legend and Hall of Famer, used to get those calls. That comparison is a bit of a stretch in that Gilmore isn’t quite on THAT level, but he’s undoubtedly the best cover corner in the NFL today and simply isn’t getting treated like it.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore conceded just 47 receptions, including one touchdown, on 97 targets (48.4%) while being flagged just five times in 2019. In three games this season, however, the All-Pro CB has allowed 10 catches on 18 targets (55.5%) and one TD while being penalized three times for defensive pass interference. For added context, he currently has an abysmal 55.3 grade from PFF compared to his 82.2 marking from last year.
We’re obviously not trying to make excuses for Gilmore because he’s too good to keep playing at this level, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to get the benefit of the doubt from referees in tight coverage situations when both he and the opposing receiver are pulling and tugging to make a play on the ball.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year got those calls last year, so we’re not entirely sure what happened between now and then. Whatever the case, things aren’t going to get any easier for Gilmore as the Patriots travel to Arrowhead to take on the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4.