For the past couple of years there has been a section of Bills fans that haven’t been able to accept the idea of Stephon Gilmore as an upper echelon corner in the league. This group typically cites poor play against top level opponents or low interception numbers as the reason why he isn’t in the top 10 at his position.
This season things have changed.
Recently Pro Football Focus tweeted out that both rookie Ronald Darby and Gilmore ranked as two of the top five corners in the NFL. Darby sits third with Gilmore just behind him at fourth overall. Only Tyrann Mathieu and Josh Norman (another 2012 draft pick) are ahead of the duo.
Though he may not have the interception numbers of a Darrelle Revis, or the cache of a Richard Sherman, Gilmore has been steadily developing into a corner that not only covers any team’s number one wideout, but also provides support in the run game.
Already this year Gilmore is only one interception away from tying his career high of three, second in the league in passes defended with 10, and has faced the most targets (49) than any other corner in the league while giving up only a 46.9 completion percentage.
Since he’s arrived in Buffalo as the 10th overall draft pick in 2012, Gilmore has always had the physical traits needed of a top cover corner. What’s he’s done this season is consistently grow his game on a play by play basis. He’s been able to eliminate those occasional miss steps in coverage, and shrug off injuries that have hampered his play.
Already in four games he’s held Andre Johnson (1-4 3 yards), T.Y Hilton (2-4 46 yards), Julian Edelman (0-4 0 yards), Jarvis Landry (1-1 11 yards), Odell Beckham Jr. (2-6 16 yards), and Justin Hunter (1-2 9 yards) all in check.
This week he faces possibly his toughest assignment this season in AJ Green (outside of a possible Dez Bryant matchup in week 16). For the season Green is catching 73.8% of the passes thrown his way, and just last week caught four of five balls with Richard Sherman in coverage.
If Gilmore can hold Green not just out of the end zone, but to a minimum impact, then he is only further validating his upper tier status, which couldn’t have been planned better as he has one season remaining on his rookie contract.
Gilmore, just like Marcel Dareus, will force the Bills in a tough predicament as they can either let him play out the fifth year option, or try to extend him. In either scenario the Bills will be happy to have their own shut corner to neutralize their opponent’s top passing catching threat.