New England Patriots rookie Christian Gonzalez has had a strong start to his NFL career, and people are taking notice.
The Patriots cornerback was named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for September on Thursday, earning the honor after recording 16 total tackles, one interception and a sack, as he's played in all but one defensive snap so far this season. He's also yet to record a penalty this season while quarterbacks have completed 15 of 22 passes for 148 yards without a touchdown when targeting him, good for a 68 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus.
Gonzalez has also earned praise from Miami Dolphins star Tyreek Hill following their Week 2 matchup against the Patriots, saying the rookie is “real good” and that he has “some real good technique and speed about him.”
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2023
In an interview with Patriots.com, Gonzalez acknowledged Hill's compliments, but also recognized that he still has to put the work in going forward to keep producing in a way that the team would like.
“It's definitely cool to see it,” Gonzalez said of Hill's comments. “But, you know, never be satisfied. Just keep going. I'm happy I got the matchup, and I'll see him later in the year. It'll be fun to go against him again.”
“I just have to keep my head down and just keep working. Just keep growing and trying to come in each week and do what I do. Listen to the coaches, take the film study, and put it out on the field.”
As Hill has gone off in the early part of the 2023 season, the Patriots have done the best at slowing him down. While Hill recorded a receiving touchdown in that game, he only had five receptions for 40 yards, a far cry from the 215-yard and 157-yard performances he had in the other two games this season. Gonzalez wasn't responsible for any of them, allowing zero receptions on two targets when covering Hill in that game, per PFF.
In addition to slowing down Hill, Gonzalez has also been tasked with covering A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Garrett Wilson so far this season.
Gonzalez's ability to hang with that top receiver talent has impressed his teammates.
“The skill and the poise that he plays with at cornerback, for a young player, is kind of unseen,” Judon told reporters on Thursday. “You see it in the greats. You saw it when Jalen Ramsey came out [in 2016]. Whoever he was in front of, he just stayed in front of, and he covered and he matched. [Gonzalez] has a lot of potential. He has a lot of potential and a lot of skill.”