FOXBORO -- If you were looking for answers from Stephon Gilmore about his late scratch prior to the game at MetLife versus the Jets with a concussion, the sixth-year pro wasn’t about to go into too much detail.
“You just never know,” he said when asked about not being on the injury report prior to that Saturday, less than 24 hours from kickoff. “Just listen to the doctors and go from there.”
Gilmore has practiced on a limited basis over the last couple of weeks prior to the bye but wouldn’t say whether or not he had cleared concussion protocol.
“I don’t want to talk about injuries the whole time,” he said. “They told us not to talk about injuries. I feel good. We’ll go from there.”
In Gilmore’s absence, the Patriots defense has found a higher level. Coincidence? Probably, but also not something that can be ignored. Johnson Bademosi, normally a special teams maven, stepped in that afternoon against New York and has been sound ever since. Communciation has improved.Those big plays that were a recurring nightmare over the first month of the season have - for the most part - vanished.
“He did good,” said Gilmore when asked to assess Bademosi’s performance. “He made some plays. All the guys did good. Malcolm [Butler] Jon Jones. [Devin] McCourty’s good. They did good. All of them guys played good roles.”
It was pointed out to me by an NFL scout that without Gilmore in the lineup it was no surprise “Malcolm was Malcolm” again. Butler has long embraced the role of lead dog, and Gilmore’s signing - and all that went into it - seemed to have a negative impact on the team’s best corner in each of the last two seasons. Now Butler’s play has improved while Gilmore has had to take a step back and try to process information and improve even though he has had very little physical involvement.
“I’m still locked in,” he said. Stayed studying, went over the game plan like I was still playing. It was good to see how the guys played and go from there.”
Communication has been a big buzzword for the defense starting way back in week one and remains at the forefront. Chemistry is also critical, and Gilmore seems to have gained an appreciation for what his teammates have been doing while he was sidelined.
“It’s big,” he noted. “Guys love to play the game, love to do whatever it takes to prepare to win. These guys, day in and day out, work hard, the coaches have a great game plan and it’s on us to execute.”
Should Gilmore be cleared and active Sunday in Denver, eyes will be on him and that secondary to see how they operate as their big money offseason acquisition works his way back into the mix. For the Patriots to be the best version of themselves, it seems certain Gilmore needs to be at his best, but as the last few weeks have shown us, sometimes it takes more than talent to have success.