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Doug Whaley: Stephon Gilmore has "made a leap" in 2013

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Can Stephon Gilmore become an elite cornerback in his second season? GM Doug Whaley already thinks he's on his way to that level.

USA TODAY Sports

As the Buffalo Bills transition into a new defensive scheme under coordinator Mike Pettine, one of the most important players on the team is now second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Asked to anchor the team's cornerback position from the day he walked into team facilities, Gilmore struggled with penalties as a rookie, but otherwise was a steady performer.

Now, in a defense that will feature more man coverage, Gilmore is the alpha dog at a position that is younger and has more question marks than it did a year ago. The pressure is on Gilmore to become a bona fide No. 1 corner, and GM Doug Whaley believes he's on his way.

"If you look at Gilmore and you've been around the practices this spring, he's made a leap from year one to year two," Whaley told BuffaloBills.com. "And that's very encouraging. Any time you see a rookie going into the second year not stop into that sophomore slump, but make a transition and improve, that's always a positive."

Whaley also indicated in the interview that Leodis McKelvin has a lock on the No. 2 job opposite Gilmore, and that players like Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers will be competing for nickel duties, also mentioning undrafted free agent Nickell Robey by name.