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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gilmore to The Rescue

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Patriots coach, Bill Belichick. 

This past August, I was at the New England Patriots training camp and got a chance to see how the new additions to the team were fitting in. Personally, I was impressed with just about everyone, especially Stephon Gilmore.

All five of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins were made possible because the team excelled in all three dimensions of the game. Even though last year’s New England defense allowed 34 less points than the New York Giants, the second place team for points allowed, I think it’s fair to say there were some clear holes, especially in the secondary. Six months removed from the Super Bowl, it seemed that the secondary might just be the strongest part of the 2017 defense.

Now, let’s fast forward one month from the preseason, as we’re already a quarter into the regular season. The secondary literally looks like the worst one in all of football and almost the whole defense looks lost out there.

Stephon Gilmore—the highest paid Patriots team member, who also appeared to be Butler’s replacement at one point in the offseason—has looked worse than anyone else on the field. This duo, Butler and Gilmore, might remind us of the 2014 season with Revis and Browner. As good as Butler is, the biggest knock on him is his size. It’s hard for him to cover big and lengthy receivers. With Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Michael Crabtree all on the schedule this season, it made sense to go after Gilmore. He’s coming off of his first Pro Bowl season and seems to be improving, year in and year out.  

From the defensive side of the ball, I like how Southeastern Conference (SEC) players translate to the pros. At the University of South Carolina, Gilmore was great in all three of his seasons.

All of that seemed encouraging, so why was he struggling through the first four games of this season? It’s almost impossible to tell, but it wouldn’t shock me if it’s because of his first five season with the Bills. A few years with a losing organization may foster a poor mentality. It appears that this is what has happened to Gilmore.

If I had my way, I would let Jonathan Jones see more of the field. As another SEC guy out of Auburn, Jones is someone I’ve been a fan of since his junior year. He’s a bit undersized, but watching him in coverage is something else. At the practice I attended, he got a lot of reps with the first string defensemen and fit in with no problem. Although he had success in 11 on 11, his work during the drills is what really caught my attention.

For example, in a drill where the receiver made a move at the 10-yard line heading toward the end zone while the defensive back attempted to cover him tightly, Jones did better than anyone. Yes, even better than the two starters, Butler and Gilmore. His footwork was unbelievable and he was able to react to the receiver’s first move extremely fast. We all know that Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia love sending out different defensive packages, so don’t be shocked if one of them try to insert Jones more in the defense.

During the Belichick/Brady era, the team has never been under .500 after four games into any given season. A loss in Tampa Bay this week would be their first ever in this situation. By no means is it an easy task, but New England knows the importance of this game. Yes, it may not necessarily help that they will be functioning on three days of rest, but Tampa will be too.

The team has faced criticism on both sides of the ball, so why not put a stop to the negativity as quickly as possible? Also, with a win, the Patriots would have ten days to rest and figure out new defensive schemes while gearing up for the Jets game in Week 6. A win would pretty much guarantee them a 4-2 record (assuming they beat the Jets) entering the Atlanta rematch in Week 7.

Most are wondering if this problem can be fixed. As bad as Stephon Gilmore has been, if he can defend Mike Evans well and minimize his production, it would be a key confidence boost. Can the Patriots hide their flaws well enough to make it to another Super Bowl?  To me, the answer is yes and it starts right now.