Cornerback Stephon Gilmore because the first New England Patriots player to win AP NFL Defensive Player of the year Saturday to cap off a fantastic year.
The great thing about the growth of Stephon Gilmore in a New England Patriots uniform is how he has not only morphed into one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but how he has emerged as one of the great leaders on the team.
They always say a great defense is anchored by a shutdown corner who can take away half of the field. Put that type of player in a Bill Belichick scheme and you get the 2019 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
To add to the feat, Gilmore was also the first cornerback since Green Bay Packers DB Charles Woodson to win the award really showcasing who solid and dominant he was in 2019.
In winning the award over defensive players like Chandler Jones and T.J. Watt, Gilmore displayed an ability of being a game-changing on a high-ranked New England Patriots defense that carried the team as a whole throughout most of the 2019 regular season.
Not only was his play on the field appreciated by Bill Belihcick, highly ranked executives around the NFL recognized what Gilmore’s presence allowed the Patriots’ defense as a whole to accomplish throughout the year.
Here is what one NFC executive told NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero about voting for Stephon Gilmore as 2019 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year:
"“He allows them to do so much on defense. He can take half the field away. He can take their second-best [receiver] and let them double everyone that’s more dangerous. He really is a weapon for them on defense. Every week, it seems like he’s making a big play, too, which, for a DB, that’s rare.”More from New England PatriotsFormer Patriot Stevan Ridley Put Kevin Hart in a Wheelchair3 Patriots Who Can Clinch a Roster Spot in Final Preseason GamePatriots Get Win Over Division Rivals Before Season Even BeginsNew Massachusetts Sportsbook Promos: $450 Bonus to Bet on Your Patriots at Caesars + DraftKingsEzekiel Elliott Reveals 3 Reasons Why He Signed With Patriots"
The true mark of a shutdown corner
But what stands out most about Stephon Gilmore is his team first mentality. Not only would he do anything Belichick and defensive coaches needed him to do, but he would trade this honor with a chance to win another Super Bowl. To counter that, the team may not have been in position to make another run this season if it was not for his shutdown corner mentality.
In tying for the league lead in interceptions with 6 and leading the NFL with 20 passes defensed, Gilmore didn’t shy away from any key matchup like the NFC executive pointed out.
Not only did he hold Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper to zero catches and limited playmakers like Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cleveland Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr., Stephon Gilmore helped teammates like J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones become better players with his presence on the field.
To cap that all off, Stephon Gilmore accomplished something in 2019 that he hasn’t done yet in his career: deliver a pick 6. In fact, he had two of them this season and had chances at many more. That means the New England Patriots utilized him to his full ability and had him in position to make the smart plays he did.
Congratulations Stephon Gilmore, you are simply a notch above the rest.