For the second-straight month a Patriots defender has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Month. In September it was Devin McCourty, and now in October it's Stephon Gilmore. On a defense that is playing at a historic pace, it's hard to find one player to give the majority of the credit to, but it's undeniable that Gilmore is playing like the best corner in the NFL and everyone around the league has taken notice.
"Steph's a great competitor," said Bill Belichick after the Patriots recent win over the Browns. "I love Steph. He always wants whatever the biggest challenge is. 'Whatever you need me to do, whatever the biggest challenge is, put me on that player and that situation and I'll give you my best and be ready to go.' I love that about him. He's very competitive and will take on whatever challenge we want to give him. So will everybody else. They all will. Jason [McCourty] and Jon, J.C. [Jackson] – the whole secondary. But Steph has a lot of confidence, as he should. He's ready to matchup to anybody we need him to matchup against."
Gilmore racked up seven passes defensed, two interceptions and 11 tackles in four October wins, but it's the things that don't show up in the gamebook that make Gilmore most valuable, namely his ability to remove any top receiver from the game. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have just a 36.0 rating when throwing at Gilmore, earning him the respect of every opponent he's faced.
"I mean he's probably the best corner in the league," said Jets head coach Adam Gase. "Just the fact of, if he's one-on-one, he's very difficult to get open on. He has a very good knowledge of the game. He understands splits, he understands break points, he understands stems and things like that, that really make it challenging for any receiver. But as a play-caller, you're aware of that and just have to understand that he's playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers. He's really, especially the past couple years, he's playing at an extremely high level."
The head coach to most recently face Gilmore and see his top weapon, Odell Beckham, taken away felt similarly about Gilmore
"He attacks the football," said Browns head coach Freddy Kitchens. "He plays the football. You have to finish catches with him because he gets the ball out. Even when you've caught the ball, he'll attack your arm. He plays tight coverage and then he competes for the football, so that's a great combination for a defensive back."
This week Gilmore faces a new challenge in the versatile Baltimore offense. The cornerback recognized that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson presented a variety of problems.
"He's very athletic," said Gilmore in the locker room on Wednesday. "He's probably one of the fastest players in the league. He can throw the deep ball too. We're gonna have to play together as a defense to try and win this game.
We have to trust our teammates to everybody to do their job, try to get to him and contain him. We gotta play tight coverage on the back end. It's gonna take us as a whole to play him well."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots once again had full attendance at a rainy practice on Thursday. N'Keal Harry continues to appear on track to make his debut on Sunday barring any setbacks, though it will be interesting to see how the team manages the gameday roster to add another receiver who doesn't play on special teams.
The full injury report included good news as Tom Brady was removed after just one day on the list with a right shoulder issue.
RB Rex Burkhead, Foot
S Patrick Chung, Heel/Chest
WR Julian Edelman, Chest/Shoulder
TE Ryan Izzo, Concussion
TE Matt LaCosse, Knee
G Shaq Mason, Ankle
WR Gunner Olszewski, Ankle/Hamstring
Locker Room Sound Bites
Kyle Van Noy on preparing for the Ravens offense:
"It's hard to simulate because our players aren't used to running those kinds of plays. It's hard to get a feel for them. I think other teams have noted that in speaking to the media after the games, they didn't know how fast some of the players were. So we're trying to do our best, the scout team is doing a really good job to make sure we're not saying that after the game. That we are prepared for the speed, that the lineman do a good job with their blocking angles, making sure we got all those on the same page in order to make sure we're prepared. We're doing the best we can."