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Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler the NFL's top CB duo?

The Seahawks, Broncos, Vikings and Texans have cornered the dream team defense market for the past year or two, but the Patriots won't be far behind in 2017.

The tandem of Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler is up there with the best cornerback duos in football on paper. On *NFL Total Access* on Monday, Gilmore said he's excited to try and make it happen.

"We just gotta go out there and prove ourselves every day; get better in practice you know?" Gilmore said. "Every year it starts over and we gotta be hungry. We gotta go out there and prove to everyone in the league that we can play the game at a high level so I think if we do that, everything else will speak for itself."

Bill Belichick is no stranger to dueling shutdown corners. During the 2014 Super Bowl run he paired a 29-year-old Darrelle Revis with a pre-collapse Brandon Browner. Before that, it was Aqib Talib and a Swiss army rotation of corners who are mostly all now on to second contracts with other clubs or out of the game entirely.

But Gilmore/Butler represents one of the only times Belichick has had two such players in the athletic prime of their careers. Gilmore, a former Bills first-round pick, is just 26 while Butler is 27. Had Belichick allowed himself to be emotionally swayed every now and then, the temptation to lock Butler up alongside Gilmore to age 30 would have been tempting.

Patriots defenses have always had a certain veteran makeup which helps more than hurts, especially if Belichick wants to significantly alter coverages or scheme. But this iteration has the maturity and dynamism we probably haven't seen since 2001, when the team had a 27-year-old Ty Law at corner and a 28-year-old Lawyer Milloy at strong safety.

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