FOXBORO, Mass. -- Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the NFL, but unlike many other elite players at his position, the New England Patriots star doesn't have a very outgoing personality.
The top cornerbacks often talk a lot of trash publicly, let people know how good they are, etc. Gilmore is fiercely competitive, no doubt, but he's a little quieter than most. One of his teammates in the Patriots secondary, safety Duron Harmon, had an apt description of Gilmore following the veteran cornerback's excellent performance during New England's 33-3 season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
“Stephon is just a silent assassin," Harmon said. "He doesn’t say much, but he goes out there each and every week locked in and focused. We knew we liked that matchup. We knew we could leave Stephon alone and let him do what he did. JuJu is a good player. He made some plays, and Steph made some plays. That’s what you are going to have when two good players are going at each other.”
Harmon is talking about the matchup between Gilmore and the Steelers' top wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Gilmore played well, keeping Smith-Schuster out of the end zone and preventing the speedy wideout from making any big plays. Smith-Schuster, when covered by Gilmore, tallied just four receptions for 43 yards. This production isn't good enough for Smith-Schuster against any opponent, but particularly versus a Patriots team that is going to put up a lot of points on offense.
What was Gilmore's strategy to slow down the talented Steelers receiver?
“Just play aggressive, get my hands on him," Gilmore explained. "He lined up in the slot a lot, just try to be aggressive. He made some plays and I made sure to get him on the ground. But it was a fun match-up.”
Gilmore was the only cornerback in the league to earn an "elite" grade from Pro Football Focus last season, and he's well on his way to doing so again after Sunday night.
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