Just ten games into his professional football career, rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore has evolved into a player that the Buffalo Bills will match up against an opposing team's top receiver. That according to head coach Chan Gailey, who has really been singing Gilmore's praises over the past week or so.
"Yep," Gailey responded when asked whether the team had been purposely lining Gilmore up across from a team's top target. "That is an accurate statement. We have done that. I think a lot of that will still continue. Whether it is an every snap deal, I do not know but I think a lot of that will continue.
"He is playing very well," Gailey said of the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. "He is doing a good job. He has become a better player to me each week. He is becoming more knowledgeable, understanding the game and what he needs to get done. I think he has become a better player each week."
Gilmore saw his first extensive action against a team's top target in Thursday night's 19-14 win over the Miami Dolphins, when he spent the evening following Brian Hartline around the field. Hartline, who has been in or near the Top 10 in receiving yardage all season, was held to just 49 yards on four receptions by Gilmore, who also forced a Hartline fumble in the first quarter that helped set up a Bills score.
A starter since the moment he stepped onto a field in a Bills uniform, Gilmore has had his share of issues this season - not just in terms of weathering the ups and downs in getting to the point where he's now a matchup No. 1 corner, but in staying there. In the last two games alone, Gilmore has been flagged for two pass interference penalties, an illegal contact and a 15-yard facemask call. He has yet to record his first career interception, but does have two forced fumbles to his credit.
Still, the youngest player on Buffalo's roster (he only turned 22 in September) is apparently making enough progress to have earned additional responsibilities from the Bills' coaching staff. That can't be anything other than a good thing. When Gilmore next takes the field, however, his new role will present him with a tremendous challenge: veteran Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, widely considered one of the NFL's premiere route-runners, is currently the most-targeted receiver in the league (Andrew Luck looks his way more than 12 times per game), and enters the weekend ranked second in the NFL with 931 receiving yards.