Stephon Gilmore hasn’t helped the New England Patriots on the field recently, missing the last three games due to a knee injury, but it seems he’s done everything he can to help others perform their best.
Patriots younger cornerbacks like J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones have been called upon in a big way during Gilmore’s absence, alongside veteran Jason McCourty. Jackson, specifically, played 98 percent of defensive snaps during Gilmore’s first game away in Week 8, and then played 100 percent of snaps against both the New York Jets in Week 9 and the Baltimore Ravens during New England’s Week 10 upset win. Essentially, the third-year pro became the Patriots’ No. 1 corner.
Head coach Bill Belichick praised Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, for his work behind the scenes as he helped both Jackson and the entire Patriots defense despite his on-field absence.
“Yeah, Steph was great on that. Obviously, he has a lot of experience and has played against the players that we’ve played against the last few weeks — Buffalo, the Jets and Baltimore,” Belichick told reporters Friday. “He’s very good. He prepares like he’s going to play and helps the other players that are going to play with things that he’s familiar with and can give guidance and can teach from.
“Steph works hard. He works hard to prepare himself, but he’s a good teammate and he works hard to help those, in this case that were playing in his place, or he’ll help those guys that are playing with him when he’s playing that maybe he’s done something that they’re doing, or covered a guy that they’ve covered and can help implement that knowledge to the other person that’s doing it,” Belichick added.
“He’s well respected and deservedly so because of his effort, his consistency and his performance and preparation and really knowing not only our game plan and what we want to do, but knowing our opponent and what their either individual or kind of team tendencies are, including the quarterback. So, a defensive back, especially a corner, really needs to know the receiver he’s covering, the quarterback who’s handling the ball and the keys that come with the scheme formations and splits and so forth — things like that that they’re involved with that that particular offense uses, and he really does a good job all that.
Gilmore had a slow start to the 2020 campaign but returned to form before being sidelined with the injury late into Week 8. Belichick noted, in hindsight, if the Patriots expected Gilmore to be out three games, they may have designated him for injured reserve, and thus cleared a roster spot.
“Well, I think if we had known he would have been out for a certain period of time, then that would have been an option. But, as I said, he’s worked hard to get back and he’s making good progress,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how things go here this week and next week and so forth and see where it takes us.”
Gilmore’s return Sunday against the Houston Texans has been called into question as he was listed as limited both Wednesday and Thursday in practice. The 4-5 Patriots will travel to NRG Stadium in Houston at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.