Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore likely will be back on the field after a three-game absence when the New England Patriots visit the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Gilmore has been sidelined since injuring a knee during a practice collision on Oct. 29. The Patriots listed the 30-year-old cornerback as questionable on Friday’s injury report.
“It was tough not playing,” Gilmore said Friday. “Seeing your guys out there that you compete with every day, not being able to help, but I could help in another way as far as teaching the guys what I see when I’m on the field, teaching them certain techniques going against certain guys, how I used to play them. I tried to help as much as I can.”
Gilmore tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions last season while earning his third career Pro Bowl selection. He returned two of the picks for touchdowns.
This season, he has just one interception in six games. That came in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
New England coach Bill Belichick isn’t overly worried about the stats, he just wants to see the unit’s top defensive player back on the field.
“He’s well respected and deservedly so because of his effort, his consistency and his performance and preparation and really knowing not only our game plan and what we want to do, but knowing our opponent and what their either individual or kind of team tendencies are, including the quarterback,” Belichick said.
NFL interceptions leader J.C. Jackson (six) started the past three games for the Patriots while Gilmore was sidelined. There hasn’t been a public declaration on whether Jackson would go back to a reserve role on Sunday.
Jackson is looking to become the first player to record an interception in six straight games since former Minnesota Vikings safety Brian Russell in 2003.
Veteran Jason McCourty is entrenched as New England’s other starting cornerback.
Gilmore has 25 career interceptions in 119 games (117 starts) during his nine-year career. He had 14 interceptions in five seasons with the Buffalo Bills before joining the Patriots in 2017.
Gilmore is one of 15 New England players listed as questionable for the game against the Texans. Among the others are kicker Nick Folk (back), running back Damien Harris (ankle, chest), guard Shaq Mason (calf) and receiver N’Keal Harry (shoulder).