The New England Patriots threw Christian Gonzalez into the deep end Sunday, and he did more than keep his head above water.
In his first NFL start, the rookie cornerback was tasked with defending the Philadelphia Eagles' elite wide receiver duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Gonzalez often found himself in 1-on-1 coverage with the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown and literally didn't get a play off -- he was on the field for all 66 of New England's defensive snaps in the team's 25-20 loss at Gillette Stadium.
That's a lot to put on a 21-year-old rookie, but our Phil Perry was impressed with what he saw from the No. 17 overall draft pick: Gonzalez was one of three players in Perry's "Stock Up" category from Sunday's game.
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Gonzalez displayed "legitimate physicality" while finishing second on the team in tackles, as Perry noted in the "Stock Watch" video above. Perry also highlighted Gonzalez's two key stops in the fourth quarter: a sack of Jalen Hurts for an eight-yard loss and a breakup of a Hurts pass intended for Smith on a fourth-and-2 that gave the Patriots one more chance to mount a comeback.
Most importantly, the moment didn't seem too big for Gonzalez in an objectively difficult spot to make his NFL debut.
"They’re great receivers. Everybody in the league (has) great receivers," Gonzalez said of Brown and Smith after the game. "It’s my job to come out and try to do what I do, play what the defense needs me to do, have fun and learn."
Gonzalez will face another stiff test in Week 2 when the Patriots host the Miami Dolphins, whose dynamic wide receiver duo of Tyreek Hill (11 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns) and Jaylen Waddle (four receptions for 78 yards) shredded the Miami Dolphins in their season opener. But for the most part, Gonzalez looks comfortable and confident as the Patriots' No. 1 cornerback opposite Jonathan Jones.
See below for the six players featured in Perry's Week 1 "Stock Watch," and check out the video above for Perry's full breakdown of each player.
- Mac Jones, QB
- Christian Gonzalez, CB
- Hunter Henry, TE
- Deatrich Wise, DE
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB
- Kayshon Boutte, WR