What does a guy do when he’s three years into being the biggest, most expensive free agent signing in his franchise’s history? When his first two seasons ended in Super Bowls, the last of which he won with a crucial red zone interception? When the guy is Stephon Gilmore, he gets better.
Gilmore has actually improved all three seasons he’s been in New England. He’s now consistently assigned to the opponents WR1. He plays more straight man than any other elite corner in the league. And the Patriots played considerably more Cover-0 than any other defense last year. Because they can. Mainly due to Gilmore’s ability to throw an Invisibility Cloak over the top targets in the league. He had the fourth lowest passer rating against and, despite quarterbacks avoiding throwing to his assignment, he led the league in interceptions with six and passes defenses with a preposterous 20.
And his overall body of work?
To me, the best part of this video - other than the highlights like that ludicrous one-handed INT in coverage on Amari Cooper - is what his peers say about him. Xavier Rhodes gushing about his technique being flawless. Tre’Davious White saying, “He’s a guy that I watch. Playing Cincinnati, made a pick-6 playing cover-0 playing outside leverage. Do you know how hard that is? He’s probably the only guy doing that.”
We try not to celebrate individual accomplishments around here. The season ended in the Wild Card round for the first time in 10 years and that is not acceptable. But when a guy wins the Defensive POTY award and becomes just your franchise’s third player to crack the NFL’s Top 10, it’s worth mentioning. (Even though he was six slots lower than non-DPOTY Aaron Donald, but I’m not going to pick nits because Donald IS a generational talent.) I’ve said before Gilmore is the best free agent signing in Patriots history. And I’ve long believed that the best FA in Boston sports history was Manny Ramirez and no one would ever surpass him because he produced for 7 2/3 years before he finally went completely nuts. But if Gilmore keeps this up for a few more seasons and the Pats keep competing for titles, he might just end up with that trophy I thought Manny had retired.