FOXBORO, Mass. — Some of the NFL’s best cornerbacks have in-your-face personalities. They bring an alpha-dog energy that, hopefully, will rub off on other defenders.

Sauce Gardner. Jalen Ramsey. Trevon Diggs. They’re all really good, and they make sure you know it. The same was true for Deion Sanders, Ty Law and Richard Sherman.

But is brashness a prerequisite for elite cornerback play? Some NFL personnel executives apparently believe so. Or, at least, they prefer to invest in corners who bring fiery competitiveness.

That’s partly why Christian Gonzalez was viewed as a top-10 talent but slipped to the Patriots at the No. 17 spot in the 2023 NFL Draft. And it’s also partly why Devon Witherspoon was viewed as a top-10 talent and ultimately went fifth overall to the Seattle Seahawks.

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Some evaluators knocked Gonzalez, who possesses ideal size and athleticism, for his fringy tackling ability. But really, most critiques focused on his quiet demeanor. Talent wasn’t the issue. Witherspoon, meanwhile, was slightly undersized but paired elite ability with overt intensity.

Well, early in his career, Gonzalez is proving there’s no one-size-fits-all personality type for NFL cornerbacks.

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The 21-year-old was tremendous in his first three games. Gonzalez more than held his own against the likes of A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill and Garrett Wilson, and along the way heard Tony Romo call him one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. The Oregon product currently is the fourth-ranked corner on Pro Football Focus (Witherspoon is 41st).

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We’ll admit, while watching Gonzalez during the summer, it was hard to shake the feeling his silent nature would lead to a rude wake-up call in the pros. But that hasn’t happened. And, as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick noted this week, that personality actually helps Gonzalez — as it did for one of the top corners in franchise history.

“Well, one of the best things about Christian, especially at that position, is he’s very even-keeled,” Bill Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI’s ‘The Greg Hill Show.” “He’s not overly emotional one way or the other, and he’s got a good, calm demeanor — a lot like (Stephon) Gilmore did.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster offered a similar take Wednesday when we asked him whether a cornerback’s personality type can impact the way he plays against them.

“For myself, I would say no, not really,” Smith-Schuster said. “You are kinda aware of those cornerbacks who do talk a lot, and you are also aware of the cornerbacks who are very calm and quiet. I would say that with Gonzalez, yeah, he’s pretty much quiet. He’s a guy that’s not gonna say a whole lot, but when he strikes, he strikes. You don’t know when it’s gonna be.

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“He’s a good player. To be a rookie in this league, and for this team, especially for the Patriots … this defense is the foundation it’s built on. I think he plays a great role”

Smith-Schuster also spoke about Gilmore, whom he’ll face Sunday when the Patriots visit the Dallas Cowboys. The veteran receiver said Gilmore is one of his favorite players to go up against.

“Doesn’t say a whole lot and just plays ball,” Smith-Schuster said. “… He’s a super vet. When I do get him to talk, it’s kind of cool.”

Smith-Schuster didn’t sound surprised by Gonzalez’s early success. In fact, he saw it coming.

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“That dude’s been… It’s funny, when I heard about him, I heard about him through one of my old friends who coached at Oregon,” Smith-Schuster said. “And he told me, ‘He’s a dog. He’s a playmaker. He’s a player.’ And I’ve seen that in training camp up until now.

“But as the year goes on and games go on … every team you’re gonna see the top receiver. So for him, as a rookie to come in every week and to shut them down — but also you’ve gotta give it up to your defense.”

Obviously, Gonzalez still has a long way to go. New England’s emphasis on zone defense reduced the amount of 1-on-1 coverage he played against Brown, Hill and Wilson, and he made a few mistakes that he fortunately didn’t pay for.

Plus, at some point, he’ll have a rough game. And how he responds will offer insight into how great he truly can be.

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But to this point, Gonzalez has been all the Patriots could’ve hoped for and more — all while saying very little.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images