How Panthers Plan To Use Stephon Gilmore In Patriots Matchup

' think playing just on third down is really kind of where we are right now'

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November 4, 2021

Stephon Gilmore played a supporting role in his Carolina Panthers debut. His head coach said to expect more of the same against the New England Patriots.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Gilmore likely will work his way up to a full workload at some point, but that he plans to use him mostly as a third-down matchup piece for the time being.

“Maybe as we get further down the line,” Rhule said Thursday in a conference call with New England reporters. “He’s really coming off that injury, so I think playing just on third down is really kind of where we are right now, and then as we move down the line in the weeks coming up, maybe that’ll continue to grow. It will just have to depend on how he does health-wise.”

We’ll find out Sunday whether that was a truthful projection or a bit of gamesmanship from Rhule. Gilmore played 17 defensive snaps last week against the Atlanta Falcons, mostly lining up opposite stud rookie tight end Kyle Pitts on third downs. He helped hold the dangerous Pitts to two catches for 16 yards and grabbed a game-sealing interception in a 19-13 Carolina win.

The injury Rhule referred to is the torn quad that ended Gilmore’s 2020 season. The cornerback revealed Wednesday that he was unhappy with the way New England handled his recovery, which helped precipitate his trade to Carolina.

Gilmore began the season on the physically unable to perform list, making him ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks. The Atlanta game was his first since last December.

“He was coming off the injury, so I didn’t know where he was at at the time (of the trade),” Rhule said. “Obviously, we were going to have a physical. It was one of those things where I had watched him and saw the special player that he had been before the injury, and it just seemed like for us, it was a great opportunity with not a lot of downside.”

After announcing on Oct. 6 that they and Gilmore had “mutually agreed to part ways,” the Patriots shipped the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year to the Panthers in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. Rhule said the trade “came together pretty quickly.”

“I think we saw the reports like everybody else (that Gilmore would be released), and Scott Fitterer, our general manager, does a great job,” he said. “Got on the phone with New England, and eventually, we were able to work out a deal. So for us, it was great.

“I think we’re the youngest or one of the youngest teams in the NFL. We’ve got rookie corners. We’ve got second-year corners. So to have a guy like Stephon in here will obviously help educate them and improve them and see what kind of a professional he is.”

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