Just how elite is New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore? He joins Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson with this PFWA honor.
On Wednesday, 2019 All-Pro cornerback was named the 2019 Pro Football Writers Association’s Defensive Player of the Year thus becoming the first Patriots player to receiver the award since it was instituted back in 1992.
While it is not the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, Gilmore’s performance on the field in 2019 along with this honor certainly makes him a frontrunner for the award. He also becomes the third defensive back to win the award, joining elite names like Deion Sanders who took home the award in 1994 and Charles Woodson who claimed the honor back in 2009.
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Speaking of Sanders, when the two connected in a post-game interview following the team’s 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Hall-of-Fame cornerback praised Gilmore saying when his ballin’, “that defense is ballin!”
His two-interception performance in that particular game highlighted how elite he was all season long, which is something Gilmore told Sanders was a team-first mentality. Doing whatever Belichick asked and needed him to do is what has transcended the Patriots cornerback into a quiet leader of a historically good defense.
"“I put that on my shoulders,” Gilmore said back in December, as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston. “Every week playing against the best guy, you’ve got to really focus. …Being in tight coverage, I’ve got to be in great shape, and that’s my thing: I’m just trying to make them pay each and every play.”"
With how the New England Patriots defense performed for the majority of the season, Gilmore has to be looked at as the main reason. His shut down ability made it easier for Bill Belichick to game plan and also allowed other defensive backs like J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones have solid seasons for the team.
Along with his six interceptions, (including two run back for a touchdowns), Stephon Gilmore led the league with 20 passes defensed while completely shutting down top receiving talent like Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr,, and Juju Smith-Schuster.
However, the mark of a true elite player is a player who also takes responsibility when the team is not successful. Stephon Gilmore was highly critical of himself when he allowed Miami Dolphins wide receiver to rack up 137 receiving yards in a shocking Week 17 loss that dropped the team from the No. 2 seed to the No. 3 seed.
Though that game put a little stain on his overall performance, achieving the PFWA honor as just the third defensive back to ever do so shows just how elite the New England Patriots cornerback was in 2019 as an impact defensive player.