Regardless of what people think about his play early on in the season, it is clear now that Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback on the roster with Malcolm Butler falling by the wayside.
Gilmore after signing a five year contract worth $65 million, struggled to find his place in the new system as the lockdown cornerback.
Gilmore seemed to hit his stride holding Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans to 5 receptions for 59 yards, but went down with both an ankle injury and a concussion.
Gilmore returned to the lineup against the Denver Broncos and his assignment was to cover the Bronco’s No.1 receiver Demaryius Thomas. Barring the touchdown given up to Thomas, Gilmore only conceded 5 receptions for 44 yards to the All-Pro with commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth barely saying his name.
After coming back from the ankle injury, head coach Bill Belichick didn’t monitor his snaps, he trusted his $65 million dollar man to cover the bigger and stronger receiver.
Captain Duron Harmon had many great things to say about Gilmore’s role on the team.
“He fit in well,” Harmon said to nesn.com. “[Gilmore’s] a tremendous player, a person, as well. He’s been out, but he’s constantly been in there, learning, still trying to work, still asking questions and I think that allowed him to play well last week. I know he’s going to continue to get better. He’s still feeling himself out. I think this is his sixth game playing with us. It’s still early. I’m excited to see what [Gilmore] grows to.”
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia praised Gilmore and his play against the Broncos and their star wide receiver.
I think Steph [Gilmore] did a real good job of trying to play physical and aggressive and some of the things we asked him to do,” Patricia said Tuesday on a conference call. “Certainly when you get out there and back up to live game speed it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but certainly I think he stepped up to go out in a very competitive situation.”
Meanwhile as Gilmore has been receiving praise, his compatriot on the other side of the field Butler who thought he was worth the big contract, was dominated in the early going by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanders under the watch of Butler and Jonathan Jones achieved a season-high in receiving yards with 137 to go along with his six receptions on the night. A strong decline from his previous performance where he only surrendered three receptions for 48 yards.
Butler doesn’t look like the All-Pro that took the field last season losing in assignments and blowing coverages.
The Super Bowl XLIX hero’s desired contract extension and the overpricing of himself seems to have put extra pressure on his shoulders to play like a cornerback who deserves the kind of money he claims he is worthy of.
While Butler still has improved as this season has gone on the remaining fact is this, Gilmore is the best cornerback in this secondary and is part of the defensive unit’s long term plan. Butler is not.