By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Corey Davis gave the Patriots some real trouble in January's AFC Divisional Playoff. The Titans receiver, the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, caught two touchdowns, one of which forced Tom Brady to play from behind in the first quarter. He has yet to consistently perform like a top-five pick, to be certain, but he was a factor in that game against the Patriots.
Just not when Stephon Gilmore was covering him.
Marcus Mariota targeted Davis twice in that game when he had Gilmore on him. Both attempts fell incomplete. The first was an excellent pass breakup by Gilmore, who undercut Davis and knocked the ball away with little resistance from the wideout.
Davis caught the second attempt, but couldn't get both of his feet in as Gilmore re-routed him out of bounds. Needless to say, Davis only showed up when he had Malcolm Butler attempting to cover him.
With that in mind, there's a good chance that Davis sees a lot of Gilmore on Sunday when the Patriots take on the Titans in Nashville. And there's a better chance that Gilmore continues to play like a shutdown corner in the matchup.
"He's a good football player," said the diplomatic Gilmore about Davis on Wednesday. "He's big, fast, long strider. He can make plays."
Pro Football Focus ranks Gilmore fifth in the NFL with an 86.4 overall grade so far this season, and it's showed. He's turned into a guy that Bill Belichick can reliably deploy against the opponents' top receiver. Davis would certainly fit that bill, and Gilmore's performance against him in January is a good indication that the shutdown will continue for another week.
Belichick compared Gilmore to two other great Patriots cornerbacks, Ty Law and Aqib Talib, when discussing his ability to offer his own input on how to approach opposing receivers. But it's also one of Gilmore's strengths that he's been eminently coachable, that he's able to take what the coach is giving him to put his excellent physical tools to their best use.
"Most of the things [Belichick] says, I listen to,” said Gilmore. "Most of the time it happens, I’ve got to play a guy a certain way. Most of the time he’s right, so I just try to listen to him and try to play with great technique each play and try to make plays for the team."
Not that Gilmore would ever not listen to his coach. But the corner certainly looks like he knows what he's doing out there and Belichick obviously values his insight. Bet on Gilmore once again doing his job at a superb level against Davis.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].