Sophomore Spotlight: Stephon Gilmore

The Buffalo Bills will be counting on Stephon Gilmore to improve upon his rookie season with a strong sophomore year. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot

Much of the talk this offseason will revolve around the projections and expectations from the Buffalo Bills’ 2013 draft class, but also important to the Bills’ success this season will be the progress and performance of their 2012 draft class.

Buffalo had three strong picks in 2012: CB Stephon Gilmore, OT Cordy Glenn and OLB Nigel Bradham. In the later rounds, the Bills had three duds in ILB Tank Carder, OG Mark Asper and kicker John Potter. The verdict is still out on WR T.J. Graham, CB Ron Brooks and OG Zebrie Sanders.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be focusing on each of the 2012 draft picks still with the Bills, in my Sophomore Spotlight series. Starting with first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, I’ll discuss each player’s rookie season, look at his best and worst performances and attempt to predict their 2013 stat line. Each player’s actual stat line will be discussed as well as analytics provided by Pro Football Focus (PFF – subscription required for premium statistics).


Stephon Gilmore

Selected Round 1, Pick 10 from University of South Carolina

Buffalo’s first pick of the 2012 NFL draft was the perfect combination of talent fitting a need. Buffalo’s secondary was a major area of weakness, and the Bills addressed the need with their first pick by selecting the former South Carolina Gamecock.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock spoke highly of Gilmore following the Bills’ selection:

“This is one of my favorite players in the draft, my eighth-ranked player of my top 100. This is a kid that is going to step in Day 1. They’ve got to play Tom Brady and the Patriots twice a year. You can’t get enough good cover guys in this division.”

Gilmore was an immediate starter upon being drafted, with the only other cornerbacks on the 2012 roster being Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks.


Gilmore started all 16 games for the Bills and finished the season with 61 total tackles (52 solo), three forced fumbles, one interception and 16 passes defensed.

Gilmore played a total of 1,082 snaps in 2012, the sixth highest total among all cornerbacks in the NFL last season. Only Jason McCourty, Patrick Robinson, Tramon Williams, Cary Williams and DeAngelo Hall saw more defensive snaps at CB during the regular season.

Best Performances

Statistically, Gilmore had three particularly strong games.

The first came in Week 2 against Kansas City in a 35-17 win for Buffalo. Gilmore was on the field for 69 of 75 snaps in the game, and finished with seven tackles (all solo) and three passes defensed. Gilmore was thrown at 11 times during the game, and gave up only five completions.

In Week 4, Gilmore had another strong game against the Patriots in a 52-28 blowout loss. He finished the game seven tackles (five solo) and four passes defensed. Gilmore was on the field for 73 of Buffalo’s 77 defensive snaps. Gilmore was not penalized during the game.

A third game where Gilmore stood out was against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12. Buffalo lost the game 20-13, but Gilmore’s performance was particularly strong. Gilmore was on the field for all 75 of the Bills’ defensive snaps, and he finished the game with six tackles (five solo), two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

Worst Performances

Gilmore had a very strong season overall, but still had rookie moments. The three games that particularly stood out as poor performances were in Week 1 against the New York Jets, Week 5 against San Francisco 49ers and in Week 10 against the Patriots.

In Week 1, Gilmore had a few rookie moments. Gilmore played in 66 of 67 defensive snaps and finished the game with five tackles, three solo, and one forced fumble. For the game, Gilmore was thrown at six times, giving up four completions for 84 yards and a touchdown. The longest reception was given up to fellow rookie Stephen Hill, who caught a 33-yard pass for a touchdown against Gilmore in the second quarter.

His 84 yards allowed were tied for the most allowed in a game last season with his Week 2 performance against the Chiefs. However, many of the yards given up against the Chiefs came in garbage time.

Against the 49ers, Gilmore played 70 of 73 defensive snaps. He finished with five tackles (four solo) and one pass defensed. Gilmore was only thrown at three times in the entire game, but gave up two receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. The longest reception was a 28 yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree — the last touchdown that Gilmore gave up all season.

In Week 10, Gilmore finished with six tackles (five solo) while playing 70 of 73 defensive snaps against the Patriots. Unfortunately for Gilmore, he was called for three penalties in the game. Two pass-interference penalties went for a total of 39 yards, and he also incurred one 15-yard facemask penalty. For the game, Gilmore was thrown at seven times, with receivers for the Patriots making five catches for 40 yards.


Advanced Stats (Analytics)

All ratings/advanced statistics per PFF premium statistics (subscription required)

Per PFF, Gilmore rated out as the 79th best cornerback in the NFL in 2012. His overall rating for the season was a -4.3. The ratings come from four categories: pass rush, coverage, run defense and penalties. A rating of 0.0 is average.

Pass Rush:

Gilmore’s total pass rush rating was a 0.0. This rating is pretty simple to break down. Gilmore did not rush the passer once in 2012.

Pass Coverage:

Gilmore’s pass coverage rating was a +3.7, the 36th best rating among corners. Gilmore had eight games where he finished with a positive rating. His best ratings came against the Colts in Week 12 (+3.4), Patriots in Week 4 (+3.2), Chiefs in Week 2 (+2.9), Cardinals in Week 6 (+1.4) and the Dolphins in Week 11 (+1.2). In 2012, Gilmore dropped into coverage a 620 total times.

Run Defense:

In 2012, Gilmore graded out -1.8 against the run, but the rating is a bit deceiving. There were 11 games where Gilmore finished with a positive rating against the run, but many were just slightly above 0.0 (an average performance). Gilmore’s worst performance of the season in terms of run defense was against the Patriots in Week 4 (-2.8). Gilmore’s worst performance after this was against the Cardinals where he rated out at -0.9. His best performance? Week 1 against the Jets where he rated out as a +1.2. Gilmore was on the field for a total of 462 running plays.


According to PFF, Gilmore was called for 13 penalties in 2012. Only one of the penalties were offsetting or declined. In 2012, no cornerback had more penalties called against them than Gilmore. During the season, Gilmore was called for penalties in nine games. While I enjoy Gilmore’s aggressiveness, this is definitely an area where he needs to improve.

Miscellaneous (all starts according to PFF premium statistics):

  • Gilmore played in 97% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps in 2012. In six games, Gilmore was on the field for every play. His lowest snap count average was against the Dolphins in Week 16. Gilmore was on the field for 56 of 64 snaps,87.5% of Buffalo’s defensive plays.
  • Gilmore missed four tackles for the entire 2012 season.
  • Gilmore was credited with 11 stops. Stops are plays where a defensive player makes a solo tackle that results in offensive failure.
  • Opposing WRs caught 56.3% of passes thrown in Gilmore’s coverage area (47 receptions on 87 targets).


2013 Stats (Prediction)

You never know if a player is going to progress or regress as a player in year two of their NFL careers. That being said, I feel confident that Gilmore will continue to grow as a player.

One thing I am sure of is that Buffalo’s defense will look much different in 2013 under Mike Pettine. The team will be much more aggressive on the field, especially in the front seven. This could pay dividends for Gilmore and the rest of Buffalo’s secondary. Without further ado, here is my stat prediction for Gilmore in 2013:

Total Tackles: 70 (60 solo)

Forced Fumbles: 5

Fumble Recoveries: 2

Interceptions: 6

Passes Defensed: 20

Obviously, my biggest leap of faith came in the interception department. As previously mentioned, Gilmore only had one interception in 2012. Considering that Gilmore had other interception opportunities in 2012 and the 2013 defense will certainly be more aggressive, I believe six interceptions is not out of the question.

I believe that Gilmore will lower his completions against percentage to under 50%.

Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, 2013 Season Predictions, Buffalo Bills, Sophomore Spotlight, South Carolina, Stephon Gilmore

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