PHILADELPHIA — Stephon Gilmore is pretty dominant when he’s tasked to cover tight ends, and the key for the New England Patriots cornerback is lollygagging.
Sounds counterproductive, right? Wrong.
Gilmore didn’t shadow Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz on Sunday in the Patriots’ 17-10 win at Lincoln Financial Field, but the cornerback did cover the tight end in key situations, including late in the contest. Gilmore allowed just one 4-yard catch to Ertz on three targets. Overall, Ertz had a pretty solid game, catching 9-of-11 targets for 94 yards.
Gilmore also covered Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce late in the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game win last season, personally blanking Kelce on those snaps.
So, what’s the key to shutting down Pro Bowl tight ends? A lot of teams would probably like to know, quite frankly.
“I gotta slow myself down a little bit because they’re so slow,” Gilmore said Sunday after the Patriots’ win. “They’re bigger, though. They push off a lot. Just gotta slow myself down a little bit, because I’m used to covering faster guys. If I do that, then I can play them pretty tight.”
Gilmore’s gameplan against Ertz was pretty simple. He didn’t let himself get past the tight end, because then Ertz would push off. So, Gilmore let Ertz beat him because he knew he could catch up.
Gilmore also saw something else on film while watching Ertz. He knew he could rattle the tight end and cause Ertz to complain to the officials.
“Yeah, he was crying,” Gilmore said. “He do that on film a lot. If you get into him, if he don’t get the ball or if he doesn’t get a call, he’ll cry. But he’s a good receiver, a good tight end. He’s a great player.”
Gilmore did later add that everyone complains to the refs if they don’t get their way.
“Who doesn’t do that?” Gilmore asked.
Gilmore said Ertz and Kelce are similar players, but “Ertz pushes off a little bit more, but they’re great players.”
“He loves physicality,” Gilmore said. “He wants you to be physical so he can push off. It’s just something he does.”
It worked against other Patriots defensive backs, but not Gilmore. And the Patriots came away with the win.
If the Patriots face another offense with a limited wide receiver corps and a special tight end, expect to see a lack of hustle from Gilmore. It has a proven track record.