The New England Patriots have been experiencing a fruitful offseason thus far, with the team signing star players Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Brandin Cooks. The Pats also claimed two-time Super Bowl champion defensive tackle Danny Shelton in free agency. Unfortunately for them, injuries are already starting to mount up on this team following the NFL draft selection of cornerback Stephon Gilmore from Clemson University
The “stephon gilmore” is a player who was traded by the New England Patriots for Brandin Cooks, and the move has turned out to be a huge mistake. The Patriots have suffered a critical injury blow that exposes just how badly Bill Belichick botched the stephon gilmore situation.
Stephon Gilmore is desperately needed by the New England Patriots right now.
However, with the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year on his way to make his first appearance in a Carolina Panthers jersey, supporters of Robert Kraft’s team will never see a top-flight cornerback return to the lineup. Instead, Gilmore will try to rehabilitate his worth and position himself for another expensive deal by playing for a club that is truly on the rise.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, a major injury has left yet another hole in a secondary that might have easily looked entirely different if Bill Belichick had handled his most experienced defensive player properly. And, based on the present roster, the cornerback position seems to be a huge flaw now and in the future.
Jonathan Jones will not be in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future for the New England Patriots.
Jonathan Jones, a cornerback for the New England Patriots, has a shoulder injury that will keep him out for a long time. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Belichick will have to find a way to shut down opponent passing attempts without one of his most reliable players after the Cowboys picked up a record-setting 567 total yards against his defense.
Jonathan Jones will miss the New York Jets game due to a shoulder injury he sustained against Dallas, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. New England fans, on the other hand, should not expect to see the team’s best slot cornerback back on the field anytime soon.
Reiss wrote, “The club is ready for the potential of being without him for a prolonged length of time.”
Jones has played 54 percent of the defensive snaps this season, proving to be a strong, dependable veteran and well-respected leader. Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2016, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound cornerback has only missed one regular-season game.
However, with the 28-year-old out indefinitely, the Patriots will have to depend on less-experienced guys in coverage. When you look at the depth chart without Jones, it simply makes Belichick’s handling of the Gilmore issue appear worse.
Bill Belichick’s mishandling of the Stephon Gilmore problem was exposed by Jones’ injury.
The Panthers’ Stephon Gilmore enters the field on the same day as the Patriots’ CB3 Jon Jones is absent from practice in New England. https://t.co/whVDGCd9nN
October 20, 2021 — Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
J.C. Jackson might be a genuine No. 1 cornerback for New England. However, the skilled fourth-year player must still address doubts about his ability to consistently cover top-tier receivers. After all, without Gilmore on the other side of the field, he hasn’t looked quite the same.
However, apart from Jackson, the Patriots have few proven performers at the position. Indeed, with Jones gone, it’s frightening to consider what lies ahead for a cornerback group that, if not for Belichick, might have Gilmore in the meeting room.
He made the mistake of sending a two-time first-team All-Pro to another club for a meager 2023 sixth-round selection instead of adding a quality covering artist to the mix at a crucial moment of the season. Of course, this happened after Belichick decided not to move Gilmore before the 2020 trade deadline or over the summer.
Without a doubt, he wasted a great asset.
With Jones out for a lengthy amount of time due to injury, Belichick deserves even harsher criticism, not only for the Gilmore issue, but for his entire management of the position.
Why didn’t he choose a cornerback with one of his draft picks? It didn’t make sense to me, as someone who loves to plan ahead a year, that the Patriots didn’t use a single pick on such a crucial position. If Belichick didn’t want to pay Gilmore, he should have drafted a younger, less expensive successor.
Instead of working things out with his four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, he signed Jalen Mills to a four-year, $24 million deal. With Gilmore, the Patriots would undoubtedly be in a better position to stop great quarterbacks than with a guy who has a history of being burned in Philadelphia.
Why did the Patriots choose Joejuan Williams with a second-round selection in 2019? In recent weeks, he’s been a healthy scratch, demonstrating how bad of a fit he’s been in Foxborough.
Belichick’s hesitation to award a well-deserved salary to another good player has come back to harm him. The Patriots have struggled in coverage for much of the season, and now that Jones is gone and Gilmore is ready to show off his abilities in front of a new audience, they seem to be doomed to give up big plays on a regular basis for the remainder of the season.
The Patriots’ cornerback position does not seem to have a bright future.
Justin Bethel and Cody Davis were the Patriots’ only two available cornerbacks. Joejuan Williams (scratch) and Shaun Wade (concussion) were both held out, while Myles Bryant was not promoted.
This demonstrates how thin this bunch is – and how terrible the Stephon Gilmore deal seems to be https://t.co/p5j4DNDuD8
October 18, 2021 — Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN)
Unfortunately for Patriot Nation, winning a championship with a great defense no longer seems to be a viable option. After all, it’s difficult to be enthused about the future of a team that depends heavily on Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins who are past their prime. Furthermore, the absence of a consistent pass rush (aside of Matthew Judon) makes an undermanned secondary even less likely to make opposition quarterbacks’ lives miserable.
And things might grow a lot worse in the future.
Given Belichick’s history of letting players leave, it wouldn’t be surprising if he took the same approach with a guy who seems prepared to break the bank. Will the Patriots pay up to keep Jackson around on a long-term contract if they utilize the franchise tag to keep him around for another season?
Meanwhile, Mills seems to be set to stay in New England for at least another year. He has a $5.375 million dead cap hit for 2022, therefore releasing him would be prohibitively expensive for the organization. If he continues to get burned in coverage, Belichick may be forced to abandon yet another personnel experiment that hasn’t paid off.
Williams, like fellow 2019 draftee N’Keal Harry, may as well start looking for a place to live. Both have fallen short of expectations and should be replaced at the end of the season.
What’s left after that?
Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade have fascinating skill sets and potential possibilities, but relying on an undrafted free agent and a fifth-round pick who was moved four months after being taken to serve as building pieces seems to be unduly optimistic. However, given that the Patriots identified their top two cornerbacks after the draft, Bryant and Wade might grow into major players in the same way that Jackson and Jones did.
However, it’s evident that Bill Belichick has a lot of work to do this summer to refill the cornerback position.
That is, if Robert Kraft provides him the opportunity to do so.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics. Spotrac provided all contract information.
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