Sept. 3, 2011; Charlotte, NC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Stephon Gilmore (5) defends East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Lance Lewis (1) during the game at Bank of America Stadium. Gamecocks win 56-37. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Comparing Stephon Gilmore to Houston Texans’ cornerback Johnathan Joseph


Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

Stephon Gilmore is to Johnathan Joseph as T.J. Graham is to Mike Wallace.

As usual, I’ll start with size and combine numbers in this comprehensive comparison column. Well, actually, the most glaring similarity is that both Gilmore and Joseph attended South Carolina and played in the NFL-minor league conference that is the SEC.

At the 2006 combine, Joseph weighed in at 5’11” and 193 pounds.

He torched the 40-yard dash, running a blistering 4.31. The Gamecock product registered 15 reps on the bench and had an explosive 37-inch vertical leap.

This year in Indianapolis, Gilmore was 6’0” and 190 pounds. His 4.40 in the 40-yard dash was the third fastest of any cornerback. (behind a 4.33 from UCF’s Josh Robinson and a 4.37 from none other than Bills’ fourth-round pick Ron Brooks.)

He too did 15 reps on the bench and had a 36-inch vertical leap.

From a physical and athletic standpoint, these two are basically identical.

Their on-field strengths and weaknesses resemble each other, as well.

Here’s what Robert Davis of FootballsFuture.com wrote about Joseph before the 2006 draft:

In just over one season on the field, Jonathan Joseph made himself one of the best corners in the SEC.  He earned a starting job immediately in 2004, but a broken foot ended his season two games in. He finished the season with 55 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and four interceptions.

There may not be a better corner in the draft from a physical standpoint. Joseph combines very good athleticism, with excellent quickness and speed, in a solid frame. He shows the ability to turn and run with receivers, and the ability to break on the ball and make plays. Joseph is also physical and not afraid of contact. He will hit the receiver at the line, and will break off and make plays in the running game.

Davis also listed Joseph’s upside as an intriguing aspect of his prospectus.

Here’s what NFL.com wrote about Gilmore during the 2012 combine:

Gilmore is a dynamic athlete who made a lot of plays at corner for South Carolina. He has the skill set to move to safety but is talented enough to challenge for a starting role at the corner position as a rookie. He is a football player who makes big plays and was among the SEC’s finest athletes.

He has impressive footwork for his size which he uses well in a shuffle-shuffle-bail technique at the line of scrimmage. Although this isn’t considered the most efficient technique, Gilmore makes it work, which allows him to use his huge frame to mirror and cut off receivers early in their route. He is a natural cover man who can jam at the line and stay with a receiver in his hip and use his strength and length to make plays on the ball and finish plays.

The site listed his weakness as the “loss of fluidity when he plays in zone or off-man coverage.” What’s more interesting is that NFL.com stated Gilmore was “able to rely on size, strength and athleticism to cover in college and will get exposed by the veteran technically sound receivers in the league.”

Sounds almost exactly like Joseph, huh?

Both appear to be imposing and aggressive corners blessed with fine athleticism that allows them to make big plays in coverage as well as against the run.

Gilmore is actually more of a safe prospect due to his vast experience at the college level.

Joseph had only one full season at South Carolina in 2005 when he recorded 55 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions.

Gilmore started 40 straight games from 2009 to 2011. He averaged 6o.3 tackles, five tackles for loss, and 2.3 interceptions, including six over the last two seasons.

Joseph isn’t a huge cornerback name known by most common football fans like Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha, but he should be.

No, he’s not Revis-caliber, but he’s one of the top-5 cornerbacks in the league.

The brilliant minds and diligent researchers at ProFootballFocus.com ranked Joseph No. 30 and the No. 3 cornerback in their “Top 101 of 2011″ list.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had Joseph as the No. 5 cornerback in his BR1000 rankings.

It’s pretty obvious.

The similarities between Gilmore and Joseph are striking—we just have to wait and see if the newest Bills defensive back can assimilate to the pro game as well as Joseph did.

Tags: Buffalo Bills

  • LifetimeBillsFan

    It will be important for Bills fans to remember that, while he’s one of the best corners in the NFL right now, Jonathan Joseph started with the Bengals and struggled a bit before developing into the kind of defender that he is now. If Gilmore follows the same kind of track as Joseph did in coming into the NFL, Bills fans will have to be patient and not write him off immediately if he struggles or makes some mistakes–because, if Gilmore does follow that same path as Joseph, there’s a good chance that he will also develop into a similarly top-level cornerback with experience.
     
    What will work in Gilmore’s favor, in terms of his development as a NFL player, is that South Carolina played a much better and more sophisticated brand of defense while Gilmore was there than it did when Joseph was playing there. And, Gilmore also faced somewhat better receivers in practice than Joseph did as well. That should help Gilmore make the transition to the NFL a little more easily and faster. Still, there are things that top-quality NFL receivers do to get off of coverage that Gilmore hasn’t seen yet and will have to learn to counter, so Bills fans will have to learn to be a little patient with him initially while he is still going through that learning process. And, hopefully, he will get through that process quickly.

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  • Chris Trapasso

     @LifetimeBillsFan Great point. He wasn’t fantastic in 2006. He really broke out in his second season.