Giardi: Is Gilmore dissatisfied with the way he’s been used?

Giardi: Is Gilmore dissatisfied with the way he’s been used?

Bill Belichick is not the most outgoing fellow, even in the best of times. So, you can only imagine what the Patriots coach was like on his Monday morning conference call with the local media following Sunday’s 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

A root canal would have been more pleasant, for both inquisitors and the man on the other end of the line. Belichick was terse at times, fiery at others. And when it came to one of the biggest free-agent signings in franchise history, Belichick was more slippery than a lugnut bathed in axle grease.


 You see, Gilmore hasn’t missed many snaps this year. In fact, the only snaps of consequence he missed came two Sundays ago versus the Texans. We were told he was dehydrated. A quick pit stop in the locker room remedied that situation and Gilmore played a better part of the second half. 

Then, there was yesterday. Gilmore was bound to the sidelines to open the third quarter, Eric Rowe getting the nod opposite Malcolm Butler. Rowe was in Gilmore's spot. It looked like a performance-related decision, especially in light of Gilmore’s eventful and unproductive first half. It took that one play for Rowe to re-injure his groin and exit the game permanently but it had me wondering. So I asked Belichick that very question on the call. He boogied around it like he was auditioning for “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Well, we rotate a lot of people through the course of the game; linebackers, defensive linemen, defensive backs, so we play a lot of people every week,” he said, without a hint one way or another.
Gilmore came to Foxboro as a press/man corner. It’s in that scheme that the 27-year old former first-rounder has done his best work. Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia embrace physical corners. Look at the work Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner did in the 2014-15 championship season, or last season, when Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan were allowed to get handsy with receivers almost from day one. In a league where it’s harder and harder to play defense, the Pats seemed to spit at convention. We’ll play it our way and eventually, opposing offenses will make a mistake.
This year has been different. A lot more zone looks and coverages than man or press/man. We know the Pats have taken the long view before, maybe playing a little softer while trying to figure out their best means of attacking and finding success. But Gilmore hasn’t looked comfortable, and - as we’ve seen - communication breakdowns are aiding to what’s on pace to be one of the worst defenses Belichick has ever presided over. Long story short, are the Pats utilizing Gilmore in the best possible way?
“We do what we think is best to help the team win,” said Belichick. “That’s what we try to do. We try to win games.”
Gilmore has done his best to fit in. He’s said the right things. He put the onus on himself, saying after the game he needed to get better with the on-field communication and do a better job seeing what the rest of the secondary is seeing. But you can’t help but wonder if the player is dissatisfied with the way he’s been used. It’s not like Gilmore would be the first, and certainly not the last. 
At times, Gilmore butted heads with the coaching staffs in Buffalo. In his defense, he had to play for an organization that seems to change it’s mind every couple of years what they want to be and what they wanted to do. One would assume the Patriots did their due diligence although there were some reports that they didn’t legally tamper with Gilmore prior to free agency but then opened up the checkbook as soon as allowed by league rules. A couple of hours later, the corner was signed, sealed and delivered. Has he come as advertised?
“I don’t understand the question,” said Belichick when I asked. Ok, let me simplify it: Has Gilmore been the player that you thought he was when you signed him?
“I mean, look, I think everybody on our team has room for improvement; coaches, players, all of us, so you can put everybody into that group. We all need to work harder. We all need to do a better job,” he said. 
Belichick’s not kidding about that, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about it, especially with regards to his highly-paid but inconsistently performing cornerback.

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.


We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.

Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?


Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

The Patriots improve their record to 4-2 with a win over the Jets, but there are still a lot of concerning factors for New England. Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen talk about something the team isn't used to - close games.

Giardi also dives into whether there is a major problem with the locker room dynamic, and whether all the moves they made in the offseason were blown way out of proportion by the media and fans of the talent added, but didn't factor in the personalities they lost.

Koppen and Giardi also look at how the offensive line play has fallen off, despite the same personnel as last year. Finally, discussing the late scratch of Stephon Gilmore due to a concussion. Anything to read into the timing?