Stephon Gilmore and DeVante Parker split their season series a year ago.
Their Week 2 matchup was a decisive victory for Gilmore, who held the Miami Dolphins’ top receiver to no catches on seven targets in a 43-0 New England Patriots rout.
In Week 17, it was Parker who dominated, torching the soon-to-be-crowned NFL Defensive Player of the Year to help the Dolphins pull off a stunning road upset that robbed the Patriots of a first-round playoff bye. Parker finished with eight catches on 11 targets for 137 yards in Miami’s 27-24 victory, with seven of those grabs and 119 of those yards coming against Gilmore.
They won’t need to wait long for the rubber match.
The Patriots will open the 2020 regular season against the Dolphins this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, giving New England’s star cornerback another chance to square off against Miami’s most productive pass-catcher.
Gilmore sidestepped questions about Parker during his Monday media availability, choosing to discuss the Dolphins’ offense as a whole.
“I think they have a lot of great receivers,” Gilmore said in a video conference.” They?ve got a veteran quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick). They have a good offense. I?m looking forward to covering all those guys.”
Gilmore also downplayed the revenge angle. Every season presents new challenges and opportunities, he said.
“The good thing about football, every year starts over,” Gilmore said. “You?ve got a chance to prove yourself every year. This is the first game that you get the opportunity to go out there and prove yourself. I take that mindset each and every week no matter what happened last year, the year before. I try to prove myself each and every week and every game. I?m looking forward to it.”
He added: “You have to watch the film. Obviously, they?re watching the film. You know they got us last year. But you?re also studying those plays and the focus is on yourself. You?re turning the page also, because it?s a new year. You have to prove yourself and go from there. You can’t really dwell on the past. You have to go out there and focus again. That?s the thing about playing. Especially in my position, you have to go out there and turn the page each and every week and focus on the next game. It?s a new year, so I?m looking forward to it.”
Parker is coming off a career year, having tallied personal bests in catches (72), yards (1,202) and touchdowns (nine) in 2019. The Dolphins also should have Preston Williams — who had his promising rookie season cut short by a torn ACL — back for Week 1 but will be without receivers Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson, both of whom opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.
At quarterback, Miami used a top-10 draft pick on Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa but will stick with the veteran Fitzpatrick to start. Fitzpatrick completed 28 of 41 passes for 320 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions in last season’s Week 17 stunner.
The Dolphins did make a change at offensive coordinator this offseason, hiring Chan Gailey to replace former Patriots assistant Chad O’Shea. Gailey, who’d been out of football since 2017, was the head coach in Buffalo when the Bills drafted Gilmore in 2012.
“I think he?s a great offensive coordinator,” Gilmore said. “He was the head coach when I was in Buffalo. He always gave us big challenges each and every week in practice. He hasn?t been coaching for a while, but he was always a great offensive coordinator that put his players in position to make plays. This could be a big challenge for us. We’ve just got to pin on our fundamentals and trust on each other going out there and playing hard for 60 minutes.”