As every year goes, NFL Network releases via Youtube the top 100 NFL players from the previous season. And as expected, Stephon Gilmore places #9 overall and the best cornerback in the league. To me this is no surprise for the former South Carolina GameCock.
There is no question that before New England, he was a slightly above average corner in Buffalo. Racking in 14 interceptions during the five years he played for the Bills. There’s no doubt that the surrounding pieces did not hold their weight and therefore didn’t go far.
But since being in New England, the first round draft pick has elevated his game to new heights. Last season Gilmore received the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was the main cause for New England winning their division. Being that they were if not the best defense in the league last year. This past season Gilmore snatched a career high 6 interceptions, and his first touchdown as a player with 2 in total.
There is also no forgetting the big moments in the playoffs when Gilmore stepped up to the plate. The 2018 AFC Championship game against the Jaguars for example. On a crucial 4th down and Gilmore is seen batting down the ball for a incompletion. Allowing the Patriots to seal the game. Bringing them to a win over the L.A. Rams in the Super Bowl. That example is just one of many more from the clutch defensive player.
While under Coach Bill Belichick we’ve seen Gilmore become the most effective 1v1 this past season. The man has guarded the top receivers himself week in a and week out. Leaving other guys on the opposing offense to be double teamed and focused on. Making it hard for teams to move the ball against New England. Last season Gilmore guarded up Amari Cooper, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr. and more. He was able to make receivers look a shell of themselves when faced against him.
Defense is important for Bill Belichick. It’s part of the six time Super Bowl Coaches identity. It stems all the way back to when he was coaching for the Giants as a defensive coach. Now it makes sense on the potential he saw in Gilmore. Belichick has been able to put him in the best positions to be successful. It’s the main reason why the Patriots won their games last season. With a less than stellar offense, we saw Gilmore step up and become an X factor.
NFL Network was correct with this one in terms of ranking Gilmore as #9 on the overall list. However, in a case of ranking players on impact they have on their team, then Gilmore ranks higher. Nonetheless, next season we’ll see if he continues this streak of being the top Cornerback in the league. As he gets older we might see him play more zone coverage and lose some matchups. Belichick has a plan for the top Corner one way or the other.
Next year the Patriots will have a few interesting matchups at wide receiver. It’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain this level again.
Feature Image Via NFL.com