Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez has had anything but an easy start to his NFL career. After going up against the likes of an A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in the season opener, he was matched up against players such as Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Garrett Wilson over the next two weeks.
His schedule is not getting any easier this week. With the New England Patriots traveling to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, Gonzalez will go up against a wide receiver group headlined by two-time Pro Bowler CeeDee Lamb.
The young defender knows the matchup will not be an easy one.
“He’s a great receiver, definitely. They’re all great receivers,” he said on Wednesday. “They’re athletic, they make big plays. So, just excited for the matchup.”
Through three games this season, Lamb has been Cowboys quarterback Dek Prescott’s favorite target. He has seen 24 passes come his way, catching 19 for 273 yards — ranking first on the team in all three categories.
If he is indeed matched up on Lamb on a regular basis, Gonzalez can expect a heavy workload. So, how does he prepare this week? By staying true to his routine.
“Just treating it like another game,” he said. “Coming in and doing what we do every week: studying and then practicing, and just taking what we know from the film — going out there and practicing it on the field, and just getting ready for Sunday. ...
“I just have to keep my head down and just keep working. Just keep growing, and just try to come in each week, and just try to do what I do, and listen to the coaches, and take the film study, and just put it out on the field.”
While Lamb is the top dog in Dallas’ wide receiver room, he is not the only player of note. Michael Gallup is a solid WR2, with former Patriot Brandin Cooks adding considerable experience to the group after joining it earlier this year.
For a cornerback room that has had some injury issues recently, the task at hand will be a difficult one. Gonzalez continuing to play on the same high level he showcased through the first three weeks of the season would therefore be good news for New England.
Of course, the Cowboys themselves are also aware of the first-round draft pick’s qualities.
“If there’s a better young corner in the league than Gonzalez, you’d be hard-pressed to find him,” Dallas offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said earlier this week. “He’s playing at a really high level. They matchup him on Tyreek a couple of weeks ago, Garrett Wilson [on Sunday]. Really playing at a high level.”
Through three games, it is clear the Patriots have considerable faith in Gonzalez’s coverage abilities. Not only has he played all but one of the team’s 192 defensive snaps, he also has drawn some challenging matchups.
Week 4 will be more of the same.