Buffalo Bills fans have been eager to see Stephon Gilmore play to his full potential since he was selected 10th overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Due to the Bills defensive needs and the fact that he was taken so high, it was generally expected that Gilmore would be an immediate starter at cornerback. He did start, and while he definitely contributed throughout his rookie season, he was hardly the second coming of Revis Island that was advertised.
Even so, being asked to step in as a team’s starting cornerback in your first season is a daunting task, and Gilmore performed admirably. On the season, he registered 61 tackles and one interception. Again, not eye-popping numbers, but very impressive for a rookie — especially if we ignore the top-10 pick stigma.
Now it appears as though Gilmore is ready to take a leap forward in his development, and that’s according to Buffalo’s new GM Doug Whaley. In a Monday interview with Chris Brown on BuffaloBills.com, Whaley talked about the situation.
“If you look at Gilmore and you’ve been around the practices this spring, he’s made a leap from year one to year two, and that’s very encouraging,” Whaley said. “Any time you see a rookie going into the second year not slip into that sophomore slump, but make a transition and improve, that’s always a positive.”
Whatever personal improvements Gilmore has made to his game should be aided significantly by the Bills’ new coaching staff. It’s worth noting that in addition to being asked to start immediately as a rookie, Gilmore was also handed the reigns to one of the NFL’s worst defenses last season, with persistent problems from the personnel to the coaches. Anyone who watched the Bills last season can tell you that Dave Wannstedt’s defensive play-calling was inexplicable and consistently terrible. Gilmore should be more than excited to work with Mike Pettine, the man who helped turn Darrelle Revis into one of the NFL’s biggest defensive stars.
Training Camp should be a great opportunity for Gilmore to demonstrate his continued improvement, and work more closely with Pettine. It will be interesting to see how he performs in camp, but for now Bills fans should be cautiously optimistic that 2013 will be a breakout season for Stephon Gilmore.