The Buffalo Bills entered their game against the New England Patriots as clear underdogs, and the way the game played out confirmed the initial suspicions of how the game would end up. The Patriots were clearly the better team, throwing the ball all over the field on the way to an easy victory.
One of the most concerning parts about the loss for the Bills, because he was mostly thought to be a strength heading into the season, was the surprisingly poor play of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The top cornerback has played quite well over the last two seasons, and has all the talent to be a shutdown cornerback in the NFL.
The only problem, in 2016, Gilmore has been mediocre to below average in a defense that depends so much on the cornerbacks to keep them afloat.
Fans aren't the only ones to notice: the Bills recognize a problem there, too.
"Well I think the season as a whole was kind of up and down, and maybe in the game it was well," head coach Rex Ryan said on Monday. "What, two or three holding calls and obviously a big mistake on that (Chris) Hogan touchdown... whether it was communication or whatever the break down was. So it wasn’t a great performance on his part, I am sure he would like to have some plays back."
Ryan was also quick to point out that Gilmore has also had some successes on the field this year, too, but did admit that there has been a bit of a change in the cornerback from the summer to this point in the season. Gilmore, almost on a daily basis, was a dominant force during training camp.
Somewhere along the way, the cornerback has gotten away from that.
"Well I think it is just getting back to the fundamentals and what he did in training camp," Ryan said. "He was physical, he was aggressive, and if the ball was thrown his way you were wondering if he was going to come down with it. It is almost like a 50-50, so we have to get back to doing those things."
Joe B's Take
If you've read my opinion of Stephon Gilmore over the years, you'll know that in a lot of instances in the past in which fans are extremely critical of him, I've been quick to point out that he's not playing nearly as badly as the television broadcasts make him look. The coaches film told a different story over the past two seasons.
In 2016, the coaches film has not told a different story. Gilmore, flat out, is having the worst season since he was a rookie in 2012. This is a player that has loads of talent, and one that is much better than what we've seen this year... but halfway through the season, Gilmore has clearly been a disappointment.
Whether it's lack of communication, a lack of physicality, not having the confidence to attack the ball like he did in the summer... something clearly is amiss with Gilmore.
Just to correct a wrong for some out there, though, Gilmore has not "always been this bad" as some of the fan base will try and tell you. Over the last two years, Gilmore has been a great player for the Bills, and seemed to be on the cusp of breaking out on a national level following a strong summer.
However, 2016 has been an incredible disappointment for a defense that depends on their cornerbacks as much as the Bills do. An unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, Gilmore has to turn it around if he has any hope of landing top cornerback money like he believes that he's worth.
Luckily for him, he's got eight games to prove that this was just a bad stretch of play -- but it simply cannot be ignored. He needs to be much, much better than he's been.
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