New England Patriots first-round draft pick Christian Gonzalez was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month earlier this week, earning some recognition for his strong play over the course of September. When his head coach was asked about the honor on Friday, however, he made sure to quickly put it into perspective.
“Yeah, it’s great for him. It’s not really what we’re in it for, though,” said Bill Belichick. “Just trying to win games, get better. Of course, getting a recognition like that is probably a good sign that things are going fairly well, but there’s still a lot to work on. Every week’s a new challenge. Congratulations, but really our goals are different and bigger than that.”
After a three-year college career at Colorado and Oregon, Gonzalez entered the NFL Draft as one of the top cornerback prospects. He surprisingly remained on the board until the 17th overall selection, where New England was able to him up.
The youngster quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup and has not looked back since: Gonzalez has started all three of the team’s games so far this regular season, and been on the field for all but one of its 192 defensive snaps — drawing assignments that included star wide receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Tyreek Hill and Garrett Wilson.
Not only did Gonzalez hold his own in those battles, he also registered one interception and sack each.
“The skill and the poise that he plays with at cornerback for a young player is kind of unseen,” said outside linebacker Matthew Judon about him on Thursday. “You see it in the greats. You kind of saw it when Jalen Ramsey came out and he just, whoever he was in front of, he just stayed in front of and he covered any match.
“He has a lot of potential and a lot of skill. We’re just trying to tap into all his talents and everything he can do. I think he can be a matchup guy in this league. He can travel and follow whoever he wants to. But he got a long way. He got a long way and it’s just one of the many accolades, personal accolades, that he’s going to get for himself.”
Gonzalez’s schedule will not get much easier this week. The Patriots will take on the Dallas Cowboys and a wide receiver group led by two-time Pro Bowler CeeDee Lamb on Sunday.