ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Riding his best stretch of the season, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is returning to Buffalo at the ideal time.
Now that’s a happy Gilmore.
“You try to get better and better every game, try to make plays for your team to get the ball back to the offense,” Gilmore said. “It feels good to get better and learn what you can do to help the team win. It’s going to be a good experience going up there and playing. I was on that team for five years. It’s going to be a good experience.”
Gilmore, who left the Bills as a free agent after last season, has been the Pats’ best corner in his last four games, allowing 13 receptions on 26 targets for 106 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 41.5 passer rating. All the while, the majority of his assignments have come against wide receivers Mike Evans, Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree and DeVante Parker.
With Kelvin Benjamin out today with a torn meniscus, the Bills don’t exactly have a comparable big-time receiver for Gilmore to shadow. But it’ll be fun to see how the Bills try to attack Gilmore, if they do at all, considering the whispers that emanated from their corner of the AFC East earlier this season when he struggled.
There’s also the element of the incredibly hostile crowd at New Era Field. The Bills have grown accustomed to watching their players bolt for the nearly annual AFC East champions, so the $65 million man knows he’ll hear it.
“I understand it. Fans are going to be fans,” Gilmore said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be, so I’m not surprised by that.”
Gilmore doesn’t harbor any animosity toward the organization that selected him with the 10th pick in the 2012 draft. He sharpened his game with the Bills to the point where he earned the opportunity to join the Patriots after the expiration of his rookie contract.
“It was good,” Gilmore said of his time with the Bills. “It was the first team that believed in me, drafted me. I met a lot of good people around there, a lot of good people in that town. It was a good experience.”
Waddle at full trot
The Patriots got some unexpectedly good news this week, as right tackle LaAdrian Waddle recovered quickly enough from a sprained ankle that he has a legitimate chance to play today, according to a source. Waddle suffered the injury last week against the Miami Dolphins, and the Patriots assumed as recently as Thursday that he wouldn’t be cleared in time for the trip.
Waddle has played well in the absence of starter Marcus Cannon (ankle).
As a result, the Pats released tackle Jason King, who signed last week in case Waddle couldn’t go. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who joined the team less than a month ago, was also cut loose.
In corresponding moves, defensive end Geneo Grissom and wide receiver Bernard Reedy were promoted from the practice squad.
Grissom has primarily worked as a special teamer but will offer depth with Trey Flowers (rib) out and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf) not fully cleared. Linebacker Trevor Reilly (concussion) is also out.
Reedy can return kicks and punts, so the Pats could take the burden off running back Dion Lewis and slot receiver Danny Amendola. Short of an injury, it would be a surprise if Reedy plays any type of significant role in the offensive game.
All eyes on Jimmy G
The San Francisco 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second-round draft pick with the intention of him becoming their franchise quarterback, so this could be a landmark day in his career.
Garoppolo will start in Chicago against his hometown Bears, and his ex-teammates will be checking in on his performance after they wrap up their outing against the Bills. His play has other implications, as the 49ers (1-10) have the second-worst record in the NFL, which would give the Patriots the 34th pick in April’s draft if that holds.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jimmy,” Tom Brady said of his former backup. “We’ve kept in touch and I’ll always wish him the best of luck and I think he’ll do a great job. The Niners are lucky to have him.”...Read more