Josh Boyer

Patriots' defense has improved; time to find out if Gilmore has


Patriots' defense has improved; time to find out if Gilmore has

DENVER -- With news that Stephon Gilmore has made the trip to Denver, the Patriots have a decision to make. Insert Gilmore right back into the lineup, or continue to start Johnson Bademosi and pick and choose when Gilmore gets his snaps?

It’s not a bad problem to have. Bademosi has created far more depth at the position than previously assumed, even with the injuries to Gilmore and Eric Rowe. What makes the choice more difficult is how Bademosi and the defense have performed since his insertion into the lineup.


A unit that looked lost the first month of the season has allowed 37 points over its last three games - all wins. It’s 51 over the last four if you go back to Gilmore’s last -- and best -- game in Tampa. The defense’s performance comes in sharp contrast to that unrecognizable group we saw in the opening month, which ran around the field like a dog seeking an unseen squirrel. 

“I think we started off in a hole and we have a long way to go,” cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer said to me during the bye week. 

Boyer has been at this with the Patriots for over a decade. He’s seen the good (mostly), bad and ugly (rare) during his time here. He, like you, was disappointed with the way the season started but wanted to remind us -- as coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have at various points this year -- that 2016 has nothing to do with 2017, even though you think it could/would/should.

“Each year takes a different turn and each year is different for players,” Boyer said. “Players change from year to year and sometimes scheme changes a little bit and it’s always hard. You have to restart the continuity. It’s not the same when you pick up from six months ago. It’s different. It’s different for everybody, even for the same cast of characters. You got to get used to making your calls again. Okay, this coverage is this, this check is that, this adjustment is this, and I think over time when you have some poor execution in play you go back and look at it and say what we’re doing? Is it the right thing to do? Or is it a technique thing? Or this guy didn’t get it? It all goes back to execution. As a team, as an individual, when those things are good we have better results.”

It still hasn’t been perfect over the last four games -- it never will be, if you ask Belichick -- but no longer are receivers running unchecked down the field. Bademosi has played a role in that. He’s been targeted infrequently and hasn’t had the big busts that have colored the way Gilmore’s been viewed. 

“The thing I would say about Bademosi is he’s a hard worker,” said Boyer. “He spends extra time on the game plan. I think he’s done some good things for us. He’s competitive.”

But it’s not been solely about Bademosi. The fits are better now. The communication is better. Has he played a role in that? Absolutely. But the better results are about all players, not just one.

“At times, when you see it, when we’re working collectively as group, you may see one player make a play but there’s 10 other guys help him get that play,” said Boyer. “We started off in a hole. We weren’t playing very well. We all had work to do. I think everyone has done that. But we gotta keep working, keep improving.”

That’s been harder for Gilmore because of the concussion that kept him out of the last three games, but he proclaimed himself “good to go” earlier in the week and all signs point to him getting snaps Sunday versus the Broncos. Gilmore’s practice habits are good, according to teammates and members of the coaching staff, and despite some big-game busts, his understanding of what they’re teaching has been good as well. It just hasn’t consistently translated on game-day. 

“There’s always stuff you can do to get better,” said Boyer. “Steph’s in that process right now. The expectations would be that when he comes back to kind of build on some of things he’s been able to do, even though he hasn’t been able to be out on the field with us on Sunday.”

Gilmore had another good week of practice. Now it’s up to him to seamlessly make the transition from a Wednesday or Thursday on the back fields at Gillette to the big stage, as Bademosi has. It won’t be easy but what we’ve seen of Gilmore has not been a true representation of what he is. The Pats still believe. Now it’s up to Gilmore to reward that faith this Sunday and beyond.


Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'


Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'

FOXBORO -- Though he’s still fresh-faced, Patriots cornerback coach Josh Boyer has been on Bill Belichicks’ staff for a dozen years, including the last six presiding over the likes of Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan. In all that time, he’s never seen anyone play the position as competitively as Malcolm Butler.

“I would say that’s unique,” Boyer told me today. “It’s one of those things that whether something happens right, wrong or indifferent on that play, you know he’s always gonna be competitive. I think that’s an attribute to just his personal makeup . . . I think all of our guys are competitive but Malcolm is never going to give up the fight no matter what stands in his way or what obstacles he has. He’s always going to be competitive.”

Butler had a unsettling offseason that actually traced all the way back to an in-season contract negotiation that came close but never got completed. When that offer remained the same, and then Stephon Gilmore was paid massive dollars on day one of free agency, Butler, a restricted free agent, shopped himself. But with New Orleans and other teams unwilling to pay the price of a first-round pick, Butler decided he had no choice and returned to Foxboro somewhat reluctantly.

"Can't predict the future," Butler said back on May 25. "Whatever happens, happens."

While Butler wouldn’t commit to wanting to be a Patriot long term, he has made every effort to once again establish himself as the team’s best cornerback while not letting an unsettling contractual situation play play havoc with his on-field performance.

“You guys probably talk about a lot of stuff that we never talk about so we’re just, I’ll give Malcolm credit,” said Boyer, “He’s here. He works hard. We don’t ever talk about other outside issues. It’s all football and I think his focus -- I talked to him yesterday when he was in the building -- he’s excited to be back, excited to work, excited to see what this season holds for him.”