The Patriots made a big-ticket acquisition last offseason when they signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million contract as a free agent.
Gilmore’s early outings for the Patriots were shaky as the team started 2-2 while experiencing communication issues in the secondary. He then missed three games with a concussion, which left some to wonder how much the Patriots would get out of Gilmore in his first season with New England.
The returns grew more promising as the season went on, however, and Gilmore made one of the biggest plays of the year when he knocked down a pass while in man coverage on Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook on Jacksonville’s final offensive play of the game.
“About all the defender can do is keep up with the route, which a lot of times a good throw and a good catch can result in a completion there or undercut it and make it a tougher throw and a tougher play to execute for the quarterback,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a Monday conference call. “Stephon’s got a good feel for that. … I thought he made an outstanding play. He was in really good position and then he’s long. He’s got good length and was able to pretty easily reach out — not easily — but I mean he didn’t have to leave his feet. He had enough length to run and stretch and make the play on the ball. It was just an outstanding play. I thought Stephon played well for us yesterday.”
Belichick talked more about Gilmore during an appearance on WEEI Monday afternoon and said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, that Gilmore has played his best football the last six weeks “when we’ve needed it most.” One more outing like that in a win against the Eagles and it’s a safe bet no one will be remembering Gilmore’s slow start to his Patriots career.