On Nov. 13, Bovada updated its odds for which player would win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award this year. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who up to that point was having a fantastic season, had the highest odds to take the crown.
Since then he has been even better.
In an era were the DPOY is often reserved for linemen — the last defensive back to receive the honor was Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu in 2010 — Gilmore has a lot of competition when it comes to this award. Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones is up to 12 1/2 sacks which ties the league's best mark as he braves one of the most barren defenses. San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa is having an impact that is taking his defense over the top while the team becomes a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is, well, Aaron Donald. But worthy and deserving are two different things, and the one truly deserving is Gilmore.
Over the years we have been conditioned to just think that the Patriots' record is built on Brady and the offense, but that is not the case this season. This year it is the defense that has carried New England, and the man doing the bulk of the work is Gilmore.
He has yet to give up a single touchdown in man coverage — yes, zero — and there was only one player, Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster, who recorded more than 75 yards when lining up against Gilmore.
While the Patriots fall near the bottom of the league when it comes to the strength of their schedule, Gilmore is not covering an average wide receiver. Each week he is asked to cover the opposing team's best player, and each week he shuts them down.
Let's focus on his latest victim and the performance which I believe sealed Gilmore's DPOY title: the matchup against Dallas Cowboys’ Amari Cooper.
Gilmore covered Cooper so well the Cowboys’ leading receiver did not record a single catch for the first time since he was traded to Dallas in October 2018. But what was even more impressive than Gilmore holding Cooper to zero receptions is that Cooper had only two targets — yes, two — when facing Gilmore.
The percentage of coverage reps versus targets yielded is a testament to the job Gilmore is doing. When asked to play man coverage, which is the more taxing against top-tier WRs, Gilmore does not just have good days, where he can put his name in the hat with the best, he does not have any bad days. Usually you live with the ups and downs of man-coverage CBs. Gilmore has yet to see that dip in production in 2019.
If that does not do it, Gilmore cemented his case when he ended the Sunday’s game with more catches than Cooper himself. The lone interception was the type of play not many good CBs can make against average players, let alone ones like Cooper.
And to wrap up Gilmore's DPOY case with the biggest bow I can find, look no further than his response to the question: If Cooper is one of the best WRs in the league and you shut him down, what does that say about you?
“You just said it,” he told reporters.
That is a king.
That is a Defensive Player of the Year.