Whether you believe cornerback Stephon Gilmore really needs more time to recover from quad surgery or you believe the Patriots weren’t able to come to a contract solution, the reality is the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year won’t be on the field for at least six weeks.
And while the real-life Patriots could feel some sort of impact with Gilmore headed to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, it also could have a trickle-down effect in fantasy football.
It begs the question: Should you still trust New England’s defense, despite the fact the Patriots will be without their top cornerback? Well, there’s a lot to dissect.
First and foremost, the Patriots have a pass rush that certainly could overshadow Gilmore’s absence. With the reunion of Kyle Van Noy, offseason signing of Matthew Judon and return of linebacker Dont’a Hightower, just to name a few, the New England front seven is going to give opponents fits up front. And the better the pass rush, the shorter the Patriots secondary — now led by J.C. Jackson — will have to cover. Jackson, specifically, seems to be more than capable of filling the void left by Gilmore, but it really comes down to a player like Jalen Mills, and how he can perform in starting snaps.
Of course, there’s the added bonus that while New England’s cornerback group could miss Gilmore, the defensive backfield featuring Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips, along with second-year safety Kyle Dugger, provides plenty of confidence. Simply, it’s a fairly stacked group.
It’s also important to note that the Patriots will face two of the tougher receiving corps in the league — Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys — without Gilmore. New England will host Tom Brady’s Buccaneers during Week 4 and Dak Prescott’s Cowboys during Week 6. But on the other hand, the fact New England faces the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Michael Thomas-less New Orleans Saints and Deshaun Watson-less Houston Texans during the other four weeks without Gilmore is a bit easier to swallow.
And when Gilmore does return, especially considering he’ll be playing for another contract in the final 11 or so games, the two-time All-Pro should elevate the defensive unit to group worthy of starting week after week. Both Yahoo! Sports and ESPN have New England as their eighth-ranked defense.
So where do we stand? It wouldn’t be the worst idea to have another starting-caliber defense to use sporadically throughout the first six weeks this season, but overall the Patriots, even without Gilmore, deserve your confidence.
…And a roster spot.