It's easy to write off the value of a rookie's performance in their first mini camp. There's no pads, and more importantly, no established veteran players. It's still comforting for a franchise when their first-round pick dominates in the way an elite talent and future cornerstone should, and that's exactly what Buffalo Bills CB and No. 10 overall pick Stephon Gilmore did this past weekend.
Buffalo News beat writer Jay Skurski wrote that he "looked the part of a first-round pick" in the mini camp, picking off three passes in four practices.
Head coach Chan Gailey was pleased, saying Gilmore did a "very good job" over the weekend. Skurski also quotes Gailey calling Gilmore "a big, long corner that can run and has a great feel for the game."
That feel for the game surfaced when Gilmore showed he can change his approach by "getting his hands on receivers", something he said he didn't do much at college. "I have to keep reminding myself to be physical with receivers and I'll be all right," he said, according to Skurski.
Chris Brown from BuffaloBills.com adds that Gilmore also had "a countless number of pass breakups" during the mini camp, exuding confidence along the way.
Gailey spoke on the importance of that quality at Gilmore's position, according to Brown:
You know, confidence is something that’s vital especially at the cornerback position. It’s vital at some other spots, but it’s really vital at the cornerback position. And he played well and did well in this camp. Now, when he goes against the other guys, he’s going to lose some. How does he handle getting beat?
Gilmore said he always plays and speaks with confidence, according to Brown, adding that he thinks a player can't line up at cornerback unless they have confidence.
Brown also reported that Gilmore was playing right cornerback in the practices, which is the position recently released Drayton Florence lined up at last year. 2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams played the left cornerback position after Terrence McGee went down last year, so all signs point to Gilmore starting his first regular-season game as a pro.
In that opener, the Bills face the Jets and their beleaguered quarterback Mark Sanchez, who threw seven picks in his last three games of the 2011, so Gilmore's confidence should only grow in his debut.