Skip to main content

Is This a Make-or-Break Year for Yetur Gross-Matos?

The former Penn State product is looking to take a massive leap in year three.

When the Carolina Panthers selected defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they hoped that he would turn into a dynamic pass rusher who could set the edge in the run game and give Carolina a talented young tandem between he and Brian Burns. 

Unfortunately, that hope hasn't been fulfilled through the first couple of years of Gross-Matos' career. He's shown that he is more than capable of being a key contributor on the defense, but injuries have held him back from developing into something more.

Since Gross-Matos has been with the Panthers, they've had another veteran on the roster to help mentor him. As a rookie, it was Stephen Weatherly and in year two it was Morgan Fox. Earlier this offseason, Carolina decided to part ways with Fox after one season of a two-year deal. Since, GM Scott Fitterer hasn't signed another veteran to compete with Gross-Matos for the starting job or at least have someone there as insurance. This is a bit risky on Fitterer's part if you ask me. That said, we still have a couple of months before the team heads to Spartanburg for training camp, so there's still plenty of time to add to the room, it just won't be a high-profile name. 

Although Haason Reddick doesn't play the same position, the Panthers will dearly miss his pass rushing presence. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow will have to put his faith in Marquis Haynes Sr. or Frankie Luvu to replace Reddick, but if Gross-Matos can stay on the field, that gives him the ability to be more flexible in what packages he rolls out.

At the end of last season, I asked Phil Snow what he likes about Yetur in particular.

"Yetur, when you look at him, he looks like he's 18-years old. He just looks like he's going to continue to get bigger and stronger over the next two or three years. He's got some really unique qualities because he's kind of gangly. He's tough and he can slither for a big guy. He's got long arms, he's gotten better every day. He'll set an edge for us on defense.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

"I think he's stronger and hopefully he can stay healthy. If he does, you'll see a real progress in what he does. He's kind of unique because he's hard to block on the edge, physically. He also has long arms and can get off blocks."

Throughout the course of his first two seasons, Gross-Matos has bounced back and forth playing inside and outside. They like him as a 3-tech on third downs or obvious passing situations which gives them more athleticism up front. "I'm fine with wherever they put me," Gross-Matos said. "Anything they ask me to do, I'll do."

Obviously, there is still time for Gross-Matos to make an impression on the Panthers' front office given that his rookie contract runs though the 2023 season. But if he doesn't take that big step or struggles to stay healthy this fall, I would expect Carolina to bring in a surefire starter next offseason and use Yetur as a rotational piece.

You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us Twitter:

Facebook - @PanthersOnSI

Twitter - @SI_Panthers and Schuyler Callihan at @Callihan_.