FOXBORO, Mass. — Cornerback Stephon Gilmore hasn’t had it easy in his second season with the New England Patriots on the game field or in practice sessions.
Gilmore has faced a tough slate of big wide receivers as he’s shadowed DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, DaVante Adams, Corey Davis and Stefon Diggs, among others. This week, he’ll likely match up against Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.
But he also gets a difficult matchup every day in practice when he has to line up across from 6-foot-4, 225-pound wideout Josh Gordon.
“He’s hard to cover,” Gilmore said. “You can be right there, and he’ll make big catches. He’s got great size. You can’t teach that. He’s competitive every practice, and I think he makes me better as a player once I go against him in practice.”
Gordon leads the NFL in yards per catch since his Patriots debut in Week 4, according to NFL Media’s Mike Giardi.
That’s especially impressive since Gordon has only caught three passes that traveled over 20 yards for a total of 107 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Gordon is piling up yards after the catch. He’s third among qualified wide receivers in yards after catch per reception, according to PFF, with 264 yards after the catch on 39 receptions.
“He’s hard to cover, obviously, and then once he catches it, he’s big and strong,” Gilmore said. “He’s hard to get down on the ground. So, I just think he’s big and strong. That’s why it’s hard to tackle him.”
Gordon has forced seven missed tackles this season. He ranks seventh in forced missed tackles per reception, according to raw PFF stats.
Gilmore also believes Gordon is still improving in the Patriots’ offense.
“He’s looked good,” Gilmore said. “His release game, his route running is getting better and better just like everybody. I’m happy he’s on our team.”
Gordon has 39 catches for 701 yards with three touchdowns for the Patriots this season. Extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season, and he’d have over 1,100 yards. If Gordon can string together three straight 100-yard games to end the season, he could finish with 1,000 yards anyway.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.