By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Stephon Gilmore is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but he’s surprisingly soft-spoken — especially for someone who plays that particular position. For decades, the top cornerbacks in the NFL have generally considered to be loudmouths. From Deion Sanders to Richard Sherman, the NFL has never had a problem when it comes to star cornerbacks speaking their mind.
The most recent All-Pro corner to up his trash-talk game has been Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent his summer trashing most of the NFL’s quarterbacks, and he most recently engaged in a high-profile war of words with Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. (Hill burned Ramsey for a 36-yard gain during the Chiefs’ blowout win over the Jaguars.)
Considering that story was a big one in NFL circles, and considering the Chiefs are the next opponent on the Patriots’ schedule, Gilmore was asked about the tendency to trash-talk an opponent prior to a matchup. Gilmore said he’s not about the trash-talk life … while subtly issuing some deep-burn level of trash talk.
Gilmore’s always been better in man coverage than zone coverage, as some of the Patriots’ worst defensive breakdowns early in 2017 came when Gilmore struggled to adjust to some of the Patriots’ defensive concepts. He played much more man coverage after returning from his early-season concussion, and in the process established himself as one of the better corners in the NFL.
(Gilmore has a 72.1 grade from Pro Football Focus this season, while Ramsey has a 60.5 grade, if you’re interested in such things.)
For what it’s worth, Ramsey issued a similar statement following the Jaguars’ loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last January. When asked how Danny Amendola found so much space to break the Jaguars’ backs in the second half, Ramsey issued some commentary that showed he wasn’t overly impressed with the receiver.
“We were in zone, and he found openings. When we were in man-to-man he was, like you said, [he was] pretty quiet,” Ramsey said of Amendola. “So in the zone, he found the openings; he’s good at that.
Gilmore’s commentary on Wednesday had more to do with players talking on the field rather than off the field, and it was probably not intentionally made to belittle his fellow cornerbacks. This summer, he spoke about how talking any sort of trash is not his style.
“My wife always gets on me about being soft spoken. Obviously she feels like I’m one of the best. That’s kind of how the world operates. If someone says they’re good, everybody believes them. And then they make a play and everybody believes them. But [people] don’t watch the film. They just go off what [people] say. It’s bad, but that’s just how the world goes. Social media, all that stuff,” Gilmore said, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry. “I just try to go out and do my job. I don’t want no distractions around me. It brings a lot with that [kind of talk]. But some people like that. I’m just not that type of person. I just try to go out, focus on my game and make plays that way. The people that really watch football and really know, they know what each player brings.”
Gilmore was most certainly sincere with those comments. But the probability that Ramsey ends up hearing the most recent comment about zone cornerbacks? That probability would be very high. And even though the Patriots and Jaguars already played this season, there’s a good chance Ramsey holds on to that one for a very long time. And if the Patriots and Jaguars are to meet in the playoffs for a second straight year, the comments may just become a bit of a focal point for Ramsey.