Something that is not getting much coverage is the development of Stephon Gilmore.
There are many keys to Buffalo’s defense but, none more important that last year’s #10 overall pick. Coming out of South Carolina Gilmore was clearly the best CB in the very tough SEC.
Championship-caliber defenses going back to the 70s-era Steelers have all had shutdown corners. From Mel Blount, to Deion Sanders, from Michal Haynes and Lester Hayes to Rod Woodson and Darrelle Revis they all elevated their defenses. The ability to limit the opponents passing game to half the field and neutralize their best receiver cannot be overstated.
The question remains, is Gilmore that caliber of player? All the scouting reports and his play at South Carolina say that he is. His play at times last year said, “not so fast.” I think of all the players who suffered, Gilmore suffered the most during the 2012 Wannstedt fiasco. He looked lost at times because his defensive coordinator was clueless. We got zero pressure on the opposing QB and our front 7 allowed teams to run all over us. Some of that should change in 2013. I think defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is going to put players in position to make plays. In this system Gilmore needs to be a playmaker.
He has the skills and physical attributes needed to be a great (not good but great) cornerback. If Gilmore develops into a corner who can take Miami’s Wallace or New York’s Santonio Holmes out of the game, and force Sanchez (or Smith) and Tannehill to their second or third option, then our defense gets good …real good, real quick. A defense creating turnovers, getting off the field on 3rd down and forcing their opponent to punt from inside the 20 yard line can only help an offense being led by an inexperienced or rookie QB. For that to happen opposing teams will need to be afraid to throw Gilmore’s way. And if they do anyway, Gilmore needs to make them pay.
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