One thing about the New England Patriots in the early part of the 2023 NFL season is that their defense has been solid. One player etching himself as the identity of that defense is rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez who is already reminding Bill Belichick of one of his former lockdown corners.
During his weekly appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday, an upbeat Belichick gushed about the No. 17 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft as he gave high praise over his performance the first 3 games of his NFL career comparing him to an All-Pro talent the Patriots will be facing in Week 4 when they travel to Arlington to take on the Dallas Cowboys.
"“Well, one of the best things about Christian, especially at that position, is he’s very even-keeled,” Belichick said, as transcribed by WEEI. “he’s not overly emotional one way or another. He’s got a good, calm demeanor. A lot like [Stephon] Gilmore did.”"
Belichick has coached some great corners during his tenure in New England. From Ty Law to Derrelle Rivas to Gilmore, the Patriots coach has thrived with that lockdown corner who could take away one side of the field. Although Gonzalez isn’t expected to reach that height quite yet, he is already demonstrating he has that type of ability in the NFL.
Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez already looking elite
Again, just 3 games, but he has held his own against some of the top receivers in the NFL. In Week 1 he went up against A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Each of those players were quiet through most of that opening game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, Gonzalez held his own against Tyreek Hill, including this elite-level interception late in the game.
Then, this past Sunday, he held New York Jets top receiver Garrett Wilson to minimum yardage. His play on the field going against Wilson had CBS Sports commentator Tony Romo singing his praises.
"“It’s very hard to cover him one on one. They’re not giving him a lot of help and Gonzalez is playing outstanding coverage against one of the top receivers in the NFL,” Romo said during the telecast of the Patriots-Jets game. “He took on Tyreek Hill last week and more than handled his own.”"
Romo went on to proclaim Christian Gonzalez as already one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. High praise to live up to this early in his career, but that calm manor Belichick described in comparing him to Gilmore gives off a confident aura. He’s certainly living up to hype and due to injuries in the secondary is forced into that CB1 role, role he is embracing.
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Before he takes on the nickname of “Gonzo Island,” there’s another big test ahead of him against the Cowboys. Not only will he get to watch Gilmore on the other side, but he will also be going up against an explosive receiver in CeeDee Lamb.
"“He’s seen some very good receivers the first three weeks and we’re going to see another one this week [CeeDee] Lame,” Belichick said of the young cornerback’s competition. “We’ve seen some good defensive lines and we’re going to see another one this week. Those positions, the defensive line and the receiver positions here, the first four weeks of the season are as good as anybody.”"
So far, Christian Gonzalez has been holding his own and has been the bright spot in the Patriots 1-2 start this season. He has a lot of growth ahead of him, but it looks like Belichick hit the jackpot with the selection and has his next Law, Revis, Gilmore in the making.