Stephon Gilmore’s recent improvement needs to be on full display vs Rams

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore needs to be lockdown in coverage vs the Rams.

New England Patriots fans have been quick to criticize cornerback Stephon Gilmore for his struggles in coverage this season, and understandably so given how dominant he was en route to being named Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

For the season, Gilmore has received a paltry 58.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus as he’s allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.1% (23-of-37) of their pass attempts when targeting him.

However, while there’s no doubting that we need to see more ruthlessness from Gilmore on the perimeter, those numbers don’t tell the full story in terms of how many yards the 30-year-old stud is giving up per completion.

Lost in the 45-0 blowout win over the Chargers on Sunday was the fact that Gilmore allowed just two catches (on five targets) for 27 yards to go with a pass breakup. That’s pretty sensational when you consider how dynamic their receiving corps is.

Now, he needs to be that dominant again on Thursday if the Patriots stand a chance at slowing down the Rams’ offense.

The 24-yard reception Gilmore surrendered to Keenan Allen near the end of the second quarter was actually the longest catch he had allowed since Seahawks star DK Metcalf took his lunch money back in Week 2 on a 54-yard touchdown, among other highlights.

In fact, the longest catch Gilmore had surrendered from Weeks 3 to 12 was a 14-yarder to 49ers tight end George Kittle, according to The Athletic. On top of that, only two receivers have beaten the reigning two-time All-Pro for receptions of 10 or more yards during that stretch.

Context is key and it really proves that Gilmore hasn’t been nearly as vulnerable in coverage as the numbers might lead you to believe. Either way, he will need to be at his very best on Sunday vs the likes of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, both of whom mostly run short routes and flourish after the catch.

In the past, we’ve seen Gilmore struggle to impede smaller and shiftier receivers, and the Rams’ tandem — neither of whom is taller than 6-foot-2 — could present all sorts of problems for the Patriots, who could be down both JC Jackson and Jonathan Jones on Sunday.

Gilmore obviously can’t cover both of them at the same time, but the outcome of his 1-v-1 battles on the outside could ultimately determine the game, because the Rams simply don’t lose when their star wideouts feast.