FOXBORO, Mass. — Peruse Stephon Gilmore’s Instagram, and you’ll notice a lot of padlocks.
Yes, Stephon, people are sleeping on you as a lockdown cornerback this season.
Gilmore has allowed just 20 catches on 48 targets for 233 yards with three touchdowns and one interception through nine games, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s let up just a 69.4 passer rating this season. He’s third among NFL cornerbacks with 19.9 cover snaps per reception and fourth with .59 yards per cover snap.
Since Week 3, when Gilmore let up his last touchdown, he’s allowed just 10 catches on 29 targets for 111 yards. He’s first in passer rating allowed, 46.8, in that timespan.
And that’s while matching up against big, talented wide receivers like Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin and Davante Adams.
He also leads the NFL with 12 pass breakups.
But Gilmore knows lockdown status can be taken away in an instant with every play heavily scrutinized.
“It changes every week, so you’ve got to prove yourself each and every week,” Gilmore said. “That’s how I go about it. We’re going to the Tennessee Titans this week, so you’ve got to prove yourself again. It starts over every week. That’s the thing about it.”
Logic dictates Gilmore will shadow Titans receiver and 2017 top-five pick Corey Davis. Davis certainly matches the profile at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, and he’s the Titans’ leading receiver with 36 catches for 451 yards with a touchdown.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday if Gilmore ever lobbies to cover a certain wideout. Belichick responded with high praise.
“I mean, look, I have a ton of respect for Stephon,” Belichick said. “He’s covered and played against a lot of guys in this league. I mean, he’s willing to do whatever you ask him to do. I don’t think it’s a question of that, but yeah, you talk to those guys when you talk about matching them up — Ty (Law) or (Aqib) Talib or Gilmore, guys like that. You know, ‘How do you feel about certain guys?’ Because, again, playing against them is one thing, but how a particular player plays against them and what do you feel good about on the matchups or anything you’re worried about.
“You know, and then they tell you and sometimes that helps you how you want to defend them. Do they feel like they need help over the top? Do they feel like they need help underneath? Do they not feel like they need it? Those guys are pretty honest — at least they have been through the years I’ve coached them. I mean, those are guys like that — Gilmore, Law, Talib. Those guys certainly fell into that category. They’d say, ‘Look, I don’t need any help on this guy.’ Then alright, great.”
Gilmore also trusts Belichick to decide those matchups.
“I think he knows me as a player,” Gilmore said. “And he puts me in a position to make plays, whether it’s a certain way to play a player or I just listen to him and try to do that to the best of my ability.”
Gilmore is among the Patriots’ best defenders, and he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s on an impressive run right now, but he knows the narrative could change suddenly with one big play or touchdown. Every week, his status as an elite cornerback is on the line.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images