The one-on-one matchup Jakobi Meyers is looking forward to on Sunday
November 4th, 2022
In the spring of 2019, Stephon Gilmore was one of the faces of the Patriots’ franchise. He was a big-money free agent shutdown corner, who had just put together a First-Team All Pro season. At the same time, the team had just signed an undrafted rookie wide receiver in a converted North Carolina State quarterback named Jakobi Meyers.
Although Meyers played a different position and on the other side of the ball from Gilmore, he started trying to pick up lessons from him right away. “Steph is honestly probably one of my favorite players.,” Meyers told reporters on Friday. “Like when I first got to the league, just watching film on him and just how he plays. Man, he’s a great player.”
Four years later, it’s Meyers who is one of the stars of the team. Despite missing two games this year due to a knee injury, the 26-year-old is still the team’s leading receiver with 35 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns. This week, he’s been getting ready to help lead this Patriots’ offense against a Colts defense that features Gilmore as its top cornerback.
Two years removed from his last game with the Patriots, Gilmore is still playing at a high level. He was traded to the Panthers last October, then signed with the Colts in free agency this spring. So far this season, he has allowed just 25 catches in eight games, for 301 yards and no touchdowns.
For any wide receiver, facing a lockdown corner like Gilmore is a challenge. Should the situation arise on Sunday, Meyers is ready to embrace it.
“I’m going to have fun going against him,” Meyers said on Friday. “I really enjoy going against great players and guys I look up to, because it’s like that A.I. [Allen Iverson] – [Michael] Jordan thing. I’m not saying either one of us compares to [them], but everybody wants to go against somebody they respect so you can kind of earn their respect back. So, I’m looking forward to it.”
The question is, will this matchup present itself on Sunday? Meyers primarily plays in the slot, where Gilmore has only lined up three times this entire season. He’s primarily been a boundary corner, as has been the case for most of his career.
DENVER, COLORADO – OCTOBER 06: Stephon Gilmore #5 of the Indianapolis Colts intercepts a pass in the fourth quarter during a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on October 06, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Keeping that in mind, the Colts could be more inclined to play Gilmore in the slot more this week. The Patriots will be without their top perimeter threat in DeVante Parker – who has historically been one of the few receivers to be successful against Gilmore on multiple occasions. Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton will all be involved on the boundary, but none have been volume targets for Mac Jones so far this year.
Meanwhile, Meyers has been an extreme volume target in the Patriots’ offense, averaging 7.5 targets per game. That number increases to 10.7 targets per game in games he’s played with Jones at quarterback.
With that kind of workload, whichever defender draws Meyers in coverage for the opposing team is in a key role. If the Colts elect to not go with Gilmore, that responsibility would fall on another former Patriot in Kenny Moore II. Moore has a PFF coverage grade of 43.1 this year, which ranks 102nd of 111 qualified cornerbacks this year.
Will that be enough for the Colts to shift Gilmore inside – if not to start the game, possibly as an in-game adjustment? If they don’t, that should be an advantage for the Patriots.
Whatever Gilmore’s assignment is, expect him to bring his best on Sunday. He got to face the Patriots once last year when he was with the Panthers and was targeted just one on 16 snaps, turning that target into an interception.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.