Eight weeks into the regular season, the New England Patriots have a lot to feel good about: the team remains undefeated, and leads the league in scoring on both offense and defense. While — uses Bill Belichick voice — there is still room for improvement, especially on the offensive side of the ball, it would not be a stretch to call the Patriots the best team in the NFL at this point in time and the favorites to earn the number one playoff seed in the AFC.
It is therefore also not a surprise to see the team well represented on the midseason All-Pro team released by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus earlier this week: only one team, the New Orleans Saints, has more players listed than the Patriots’ three — all of which defenders that have made the team as honorable mentions:
LB Jamie Collins Sr.
CB Jonathan Jones
FS Devin McCourty
The three Patriots certainly have a valid case as some of the best players at their respective positions: Collins is a realistic NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Jones has established himself as one of the top slot cornerbacks in all of football, and McCourty is arguably playing his best football ever while leading the NFL with five interceptions. All three men have played a big role for New England’s outstanding defense.
Another player that has done just that, however, is not listed among the best players in the league after eight weeks: Stephon Gilmore, who has just won the title of the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Month and has a strong case as the best cornerback in all of football. However, PFF has not included the 29-year-old on its midseason All-Pro team after giving him “only” a 73.0 grade for his season (compared to 88.3 for Jones, for example).
The grade certainly can be described as interesting. After all, Gilmore has regularly taken on opponents’ best wide receivers and performed outstandingly in this role: according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, the 2018 first-team All-Pro selection has allowed just 16 completions on 41 passes into his coverage, for 198 yards and three interceptions. His defensive passer rating of 24.2 is outstanding considering his role.
Yet, PFF has opted to go with the Baltimore Ravens’ Marcus Peters and the Washington Redskins’ Quinton Dunbar as its selections alongside Jones and Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. Luckily for the Patriots, however, games are not decided because of grading or statistics but because of performance — and Gilmore’s has been terrific through the first half of the regular season.
It may not have earned him a spot on the PFF midseason All-Pro team, but it might earn him something far more valuable in the long haul: a second Super Bowl ring.