Gilmore Honored by All-Pro Nod
By Kevin Duffy
FOXBORO -- A trio of All-Pro defensive backs will take the field in Sunday’s AFC divisional round matchup.
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore was voted All-Pro for the first time in his seven-year career, and two players in the Chargers secondary earned the distinction: rookie strong safety Derwin James and second-year slot cornerback Desmond King.
On his first day back in the Pats locker room since the bye week, Gilmore shared his thoughts on the accolade.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Gilmore said. “You work hard, it’s a great honor from other people, players. It’s a great honor, but I’m looking forward to this week and playing the Chargers.”
Just before the Pats broke for the bye weekend, Tom Brady told reporters Gilmore is “right up there” among the top corners he’s played with. It’s a list that includes Ty Law, Aqib Talib, and Darrelle Revis.
“Those guys were great corners here, they made a lot of plays in the National Football League,” Gilmore said. “Any time someone puts you in that category, it’s a good feeling. But you can’t be complacent. You’ve got to keep working.”
Throughout his interview, Gilmore made sure to keep the focus on the Chargers. He started working on the scouting report immediately after Sunday’s game ended, pulling out his iPad and watching film of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Tyrell Williams.
Gilmore could draw Allen, whom he called “very crafty” and “quick at the top of the route.”
“He’s a good receiver. He’s been making plays in this league a long time,” Gilmore said.
FALLING OFF THE KLIFF
With rumors swirling that Josh McDaniels might leave the Pats for a head coaching opportunity this spring, the team might be searching for its first new offensive coordinator in a decade.
One candidate to monitor: USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.
Kingsbury’s name was floated by NBC’s Mike Florio as a possible McDaniels replacement. Florio reported the Patriots are “preparing for McDaniels to leave” to either the Browns or Packers, though Green Bay reportedly hired Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
Kingsbury hasn’t coached in the NFL, but he has experience with Bill Belichick and the Pats. He was drafted by the team in 2003 after a record-setting career as a quarterback at Texas Tech.
“I played with Kliff, and we have been friends ever since,” Brady said on WEEI. “Kliff has done a great job at Texas Tech, and I know he’s at USC, but it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of (NFL) teams are interested. He’s just a great football mind and will be successful wherever he’s at.”
Kingsbury was fired by his alma mater after six seasons as head coach. He was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator a month ago. Kingsbury compiled a 35-40 record at Texas Tech. His teams were known for their high-flying offenses. He helped mold quarterback Patrick Mahomes into a first-round pick.
The Chargers activated tight end Hunter Henry, providing Philip Rivers with yet another weapon.
Henry suffered a torn ACL during OTAs in late May and was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. It’s hard to know how much he’ll play, if at all, on Sunday.
“If he’s on the 53-man roster, then we’ll prepare for him like we always do,” Belichick said. “How they utilize him, that’ll be up to them, but he’s a very talented player.”
Hunter has caught 81 passes for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons.
Patriots players watched film of the Chargers on their first day back to work, but they also checked out a play from the Bears-Eagles game.
The “no clear recovery” rule at the end of the first half in Chicago was a crucial teaching point for Belichick.
A quick recap: An incompletion went to review in the final minute of the half, and the replay clearly showed Bears receiver Anthony Miller had taken multiple steps while retaining possession of the ball before it was jarred loose as he hit the ground. It would have been a 30-yard gain. But because Miller fumbled on the play and no one recovered the ball -- it was finally picked up by a referee -- the Bears simply kept possession at the original line of scrimmage. If Miller had simply picked the ball up off the ground, Chicago would have been inside the Philadelphia 10-yard line.
The Bears settled for a field goal and ultimately lost, 16-15.
“We’ve been through it a thousand times, but we went through some of those things again today just to make sure everybody understands what we want to do and how important it is to do the right thing in situations like that,” Belichick said. “Again, there are so many close plays in all these games. ... It seemed like there were a dozen of those kind of plays just in this weekend, so inch, every little thing is so important.”