FOXBORO, Mass. — Though they only overlapped in New England for a few short months, Stephon Gilmore left a lasting impression on New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
Before he was dealt to the Carolina Panthers last October, Gilmore would give Jones film-study suggestions and behind-the-scenes pointers as the latter navigated his first NFL season. After the trade, Jones said is was “an honor just to get to know” the veteran cornerback, who starred for the Patriots from 2017 to 2020.
A year later, those feelings haven’t changed.
“He looks great,” Jones said Wednesday as Gilmore, now with the Indianapolis Colts, prepares for his first game back at Gillette Stadium. “I was here with him just for a little bit, obviously. He was injured and stuff. But he looks great out there. He’s just a great cornerback and still is. You can tell they’re putting him out there and he’s locking down the guys for the most part — just covering them 1-on-1 and doing his thing.”
The 32-year-old Gilmore enters Sunday’s Patriots-Colts matchup as Pro Football Focus’s 24th-highest-graded corner.
“He’s definitely still a premier cornerback, and I have all the respect in the world for him and how he treated me when I was here young,” Jones said. “Just some of the information that he gave me in the training room or just at his locker. He’s definitely an all-time dude, and I’m excited to go against him here.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick traded Gilmore to Carolina following a dispute over his contract and injury rehab, netting only a 2023 sixth-round draft pick in return for the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Asked Wednesday about Gilmore, Belichick said he’s “obviously a good corner.”
Gilmore has 29 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups through eight games this season. His best 2022 performance came against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, when had an end-zone interception late in regulation and a game-ending pass breakup in overtime to seal a 12-9 Colts win.
Jones will need to be wary when throwing in Gilmore’s direction on Sunday. He’s already thrown one interception to the ex-Patriot, in a win over the Panthers last season. Gilmore did miss practice Wednesday with an ankle injury, however, so his availability bears monitoring.