When the Patriots signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore as a free agent this offseason, the predictions for how the Patriots secondary would play this season were pretty much the exact opposite of how the secondary has played through four games this season.
Safety Devin McCourty said after Sunday’s loss to the Panthers that the defensive backs are letting the team down and Gilmore was involved in two plays that fit into McCourty’s assessment. He was part of a communication breakdown that led to a Fozzy Whittaker touchdown and was flagged for illegal hands to the face to keep Carolina’s game-winning drive alive in the fourth quarter.
Gilmore didn’t open the second half in the team’s base defense, something Patriots coach Bill Belichick said was just about rotating players during a Monday conference call. He was then asked whether Gilmore was being used in the best way for his skill set. Belichick said they do what’s “best to help the team win” and then said he didn’t understand the question when asked if Gilmore came as “advertised.” That was rephrased as a question about whether Gilmore “has been the player that you thought he was.”
“I mean, look, I think everybody on our team has room for improvement; coaches, players, all of us, so you can put everybody into that group. We all need to work harder. We all need to do a better job,” Belichick said in comments distributed by the team.
That’s certainly true on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots, who have allowed at least 33 points in three of their first four games, and the hope for New England may be that increased time working together will lead to better play from Gilmore in the back end of the defense. They won’t have much of that time before facing the Buccaneers on Thursday, so a quicker fix would come in handy.