Three games into his career Christian Gonzalez already has some high-quality matchups under his belt. He faced high-quality wide receiver duos in Week 1 (Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith) and Week 2 (Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle), followed by last season’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in Week 3 (New York’s Garrett Wilson).
Considering that those five are some of the best wide receivers the league currently has to offer, Gonzalez starting slowly into his New England Patriots tenure would have been understandable. He has done that, however.
Gonzalez has been competitive in each of his matchups, and the numbers show it. According to Pro Football Focus, he has dropped back into coverage 116 times and given up 15 catches on 22 targets for 148 yards with one interception, resulting in an opposing passer rating of just 68.0.
For head coach Bill Belichick, it all starts with Gonzalez’s demeanor — one that evokes memories of former Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
“One of the best things about Christian, especially at that position, is he’s very even-keeled,” Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday. “He’s not overly emotional one way or another, and he’s got a good, calm demeanor — a lot like Gilmore did. He’s seen some very good receivers the first three weeks and we’re going to see another one this week, [CeeDee] Lamb.”
Gilmore spent four seasons with the Patriots between 2017 and 2020 and was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks during that span. He helped the team win a Super Bowl, was voted All-Pro twice, and received the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for his outstanding 2019 campaign.
Despite the promise he has shown, Gonzalez is obviously far from that level of play yet. However, the 17th overall selection in this year’s draft has proven himself a valuable addition to the New England secondary in large part because of those Gilmore-like qualities he has displayed.
They have allowed him to play some high-level football in a difficult environment, and will be crucial moving forward as well.
“That’s the NFL, it’s the best of the best,” he said after the Patriots’ 15-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. “So, every week is a new challenge and just something to look forward to and go out and just compete and have fun.”