Chrtistian Gonzalez

Chrtistian Gonzalez


A returning “freak” is tipped to become one of the NFL’s best for the New England Patriots.

Injury robbed the New England Patriots of the chance to see how far Christian Gonzalez could develop as a rookie, but the healthy-again cornerback is predicted to become one of the NFL’s best in his second season.

That’s according to Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports. He believes that as a “freak athletically with super-smooth hips and brilliant route-recognition skill, Gonzalez was born to play in New England’s defense.”

The scheme fit remains the same even after Bill Belichick was replaced as head coach by Jerod Mayo. Belichick’s former assistants Mayo and DeMarcus Covington will run an already strong defense in a similar way.

It’s good news for Gonzalez, who “has the athletic makeup of a premier perimeter cornerback.” Now he’s over the shoulder injury that ended his debut season, Gonzalez can “insert himself into the conversation as one of the league’s best, young, sticky coverage defenders,” per Trapasso.

The Patriots need Gonzalez to live up to the hype and become the dominant figure at a position still in a state of flux.

Christian Gonzalez Primed for Breakout Year

It’s natural for there to be buzz about what a fully healthy Gonzalez can achieve. Especially since he was playing at a high level before he tore his labrum against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4.

The injury forced a sudden stop to what was becoming a dominant rookie campaign for the 17th pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Gonzalez was establishing himself as a shutdown cover man at the pro level.

His reputation was building after the former Oregon standout smothered All-Pro burner Tyreek Hill against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. A performance highlighted by NFL Rookie Watch.

Christian Gonzalez had the LOCKS on Tyreek Hill last night

Gonzalez was targeted just TWICE while he was in coverage on Hill.

He didn’t allow a SINGLE reception and came away with an interception on one of the targets.

Gonzalez is currently allowing a passer rating of 58.5…

Surviving on an island against marquee wide receivers is the mark of an elite corner. Gonzalez was developing that way, allowing a mere seven yards per target, according to Pro Football Reference. The 21-year-old also showed off the nuance in his game by blitzing three times to register a sack and two pressures.

Gonzalez living up the billing and joining the league’s best would salvage a position group that’s become a potential issue for the new staff.

Patriots Need Cornerback Help

The depth chart is depleted now Jack Jones and Jalen Mills are playing elsewhere. Familiar faces Jonathan Jones and Marcus Jones are still around, but New England’s secondary proved vulnerable without Gonzalez.

That vulnerability was summed up by the Patriots allowing 48 completions of 20-plus yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. Breakdowns like this one against Terry McLaurin and the Washington Commanders, highlighted by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, became worryingly common.

Sixth plus-20-yard play allowed (Terry McLaurin for 36 — the 5th play above was 26)

4-man rush

Zone coverage as Jonathan Jones drops off McLaurin and Ja’Whaun Bentley retreats into area of slant

10-yard gain becomes 36 with YAC; not precise enough angles in pursuit

An inconsistent pass rush didn’t help, but the defense missed a lockdown player on the perimeter more.

Gonzalez will fill the void if he stays on the field. He’ll be helped by the Pats’ strength at safety, where veteran pair Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger remain productive and versatile playmakers.

It would also help if another cornerback stepped up and became as accomplished as Gonzalez. There aren’t many obvious candidates, even though the Patriots added Marcellas Dial Jr. via the sixth round of this year’s draft.

Like Gonzalez, the rookie is deemed a good scheme fit, per writer Mike Dussault. The latter pointed out how the defense still needs a competent slot corner to emerge, as well as a true free safety.

Gonzalez filling the slot would be a bonus, but his primary remit will be taking away one side of the field on the outside.

James Dudko covers the New York Giants, Washington Commanders, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for He has covered the NFL and world soccer since 2011, with bylines at FanSided, Prime Time Sports Talk and Bleacher Report before joining Heavy in 2021. More about James Dudko

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