What to expect when the Patriots go against Stephon Gilmore on Sunday

Gilmore had an interception in his first action since coming off the PUP list, and he'll be looking for more against the Patriots on Sunday.

Stephon Gilmore Patriots Panthers
Stephon Gilmore warms up for the Carolina Panthers before a game against the Atlanta Falcons. Mark Brown/Getty Images
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Stephon Gilmore got his feet wet in a big way last week with Carolina, picking off Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to essentially seal a win for the Panthers. He’ll be looking for an even bigger encore in his second game since returning from the PUP list. His opponent? The Patriots, his employer just a few short weeks ago.

Much has been made, of course, about the state of New England’s secondary since the team traded Gilmore to Carolina for a sixth-round pick after a protracted contract standoff.

Long story short: it’s not great, especially with the injury to Jonathan Jones and the recent struggles of Jalen Mills, Gilmore’s replacement opposite J.C. Jackson.


But now it’s time to start considering what it means to face the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year as an opponent for the first time since he was a Buffalo Bill in 2016.

Let’s start with this: Gilmore will likely only play in a limited fashion against New England as he continues getting his legs under him. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Patriot played just 17 defensive snaps in his season debut. Most of them (13) came in his traditional outside corner spot while three snaps came from the slot.

But in those snaps, he looked plenty healthy and physical–a little too physical on his first target of the game, which resulted in a pass interference call.

The way Carolina deployed Gilmore against Atlanta should also interest the Patriots.

Though a majority of his snaps came as an outside zone cornerback, he was Carolina’s top choice to travel with monster Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts in man coverage both outside and in the slot. There’s no way the Panthers give him that assignment if he’s not completely ready to go.

Gilmore had a nice stop in one-on-one coverage against the bigger Pitts, tackling him short of the line to gain on a third-down catch. Then, the corner’s interception came when he traveled with Pitts on a post from the right slot and undercut the throw.

Gilmore did give up two catches for 19 yards on his four targets, and the Patriots might be able to take advantage of him with the same deep in-breaking routes they used on a rusty Richard Sherman against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Still, test him at your own peril.

The veteran corner comes into this game motivated to make a play against the Patriots, and the Panthers’ aggressive front, which pressures quarterbacks at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, could create some opportunities for that to happen.

Otherwise, it will be up to Mac Jones not to force anything his way that he shouldn’t. Gilmore might be rusty, but he proved last week he’s still dangerous.


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