Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.
Players selected in the first round of the NFL draft are expected to be instant contributors, if not starters heading into their first professional season. Some first round picks come in and simply contribute, but others become game changers for their team in year one. Bills first round draft choice Stephon Gilmore could easily be a steady role player, but can he be a game changing starting cornerback this season?
Gilmore has already been lining up as one of the starting outside cornerbacks during both OTAs and mini-camp. He has been very impressive to this point and the team's number one wide receiver has taken notice.
"Even if he wasn't on my team and just checking out film on him you can tell he's going to be something special," said Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson. "He has that fight and that hunger and you can see it in him. I think he's going to be one of those dominant cornerbacks in the league."
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has now had a chance to get a good look at the rookie during team drills. He is not shy about saying what Gilmore is capable of becoming, but does caution that it is still early in the process.
"I think Gilmore is going to be a great player," said Fitzpatrick. "He's done some good things so far and we're not in pads yet."
Players will have to wait until training camp to put on the pads, but based on first impressions, head coach Chan Gailey is very impressed with what he has witnessed from the rookie cornerback.
"He has done really an excellent job," said Gailey. "Everything that we have asked him to do, to pick up, to adjust to—he has handled it so well. He is very mature beyond his years."
His physical play and style have also been apparent this offseason, which should only help when the pads do go on. It is very difficult for some corners to play this kind of physical brand, but Gailey sees it as just a normal element to his game.
"It is something that I think is very natural for him," Gailey said. "Some guys have to learn how to feel a receiver. I think he has instincts in that regard of understanding what great receivers (do)."
Gilmore has always believed in his abilities and he feels like there are no limitations to what he can accomplish this year.
"I always play with confidence," said Gilmore. "So I think that comes with me and if I just keep learning the sky is the limit."
This kind of confidence made it easy for scouts and upper management to gravitate to a player like Gilmore during the draft process. General Manager Buddy Nix continues to be nothing but impressed with how Gilmore handles himself and he believes that the rookie can be a difference maker for this team.
"From what I've seen I'd say he definitely can," said Nix. "He's done more than we thought he'd do with what we've exposed him to. So nothing surprises him. He's a very patient guy. He doesn't bite on every move. He's smart and has deceiving strength and great speed."
Gilmore will likely start at corner and serve as a game changer on a defense that is already loaded with playmakers. The Bills first round pick will benefit from a much improved pass rush, which will only provide the secondary with more playmaking opportunities. It will also allow the corners to take more risks than usual because quarterbacks will be in a hurry to release the football. The early praise from teammates and coaches illustrates how much talent and potential Gilmore has as a player.