Can Stephon Gilmore shut down Kyle Pitts again in Week 14?

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) Stephon Gilmore
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) Stephon Gilmore /

44. Panthers -3.0. 1 PM ET. 87. 5-7. FOX. Sunday, Dec 12. 5-7

Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore shut down stud tight end Kyle Pitts earlier this season, but can he do it again in Week 14?

The small sample size provided by Stephon Gilmore since returning from a torn quad has been highly encouraging. The Carolina Panthers traded a 2023 sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots to secure the services of the All-Pro cornerback just hours before his release, which looks to be a shrewd bit of business by the front office judging by production so far.

Although the Panthers have struggled over the last few weeks defensively, Gilmore‘s status and reps are growing with every passing game and there is real hope the former South Carolina standout can become a prominent part of the starting lineup after the bye against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14.

Carolina is looking to sweep Atlanta for the first time since 2013 after dominating their NFC South divisional rivals earlier in the campaign. This just so happened to be Gilmore’s official debut for the Panthers and the four-time Pro Bowler told defensive coordinator Phil Snow before the game there was only one man he wanted to line up against.

That, of course, was Kyle Pitts.

Instead of taking things easily after so long away from the gridiron, Gilmore saw something on film to suggest he might be able to have his way with the No. 4 overall selection, who has taken the NFL by storm during his first year in a professional environment.

Gilmore played 32 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps – mostly against Pitts – holding the Florida product to two receptions for 13 receiving yards from six targets.

Not a bad way to introduce yourself to different surroundings.

Something that Pitts declared was a rude awakening and his welcome to the NFL moment.

"“He’s a great player, kinda gave me a welcome to the NFL, so I know I gotta come back and be better next week. He did some different things that I haven’t seen before, so it’s just time for me to go back in the lab and fix some things.”"

Pitts has gone over 60 receiving yards just twice since he last played the Panthers. Although much of this has to do with Atlanta’s struggles overall.

Stephon Gilmore must become a leader for the Carolina Panthers.

Facing off against Gilmore once again is a challenge Pitts should relish and he won’t want the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year shutting him out for a second time. Even though that is a real possibility.

Donte Jackson is out for the season after some disappointing bye-week news. So now is the time for Gilmore to step up and become a leader on and off the field.

Gilmore’s 89.2 grade from Pro Football Focus is the team’s highest. Keeping up this level of production between now and the end of the season will only strengthen his claims for a longer-term commitment from the franchise for 2022 and beyond.

We should see the best of Gilmore with two additional weeks of rehabilitation. Carolina has taken things easy with the corner up to now, but it would be a huge surprise if his time on the field didn’t increase substantially over five crucial contests that will ultimately determine just how dramatic this offseason will be for the franchise.

Locking down Pitts is a key to thwarting the Falcons this weekend. Gilmore has the upper hand based on their previous meeting, but the rookie won’t want to get embarrassed again and has the physical attributes to punish almost every mistake.

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Get your popcorn ready, this will be fun.