Corner Report: Week 1

Corner Report: Week 1

This article is part of our Corner Report series.

This article will go game by game for the Sunday main slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits in the alignment data of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers very rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formational quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.


 

Houston vs Jacksonville

Houston Wide Receivers

It remains to be seen how the Jaguars handle their secondary personnel, but the clear WR1 for Houston is Brandin Cooks, who can line up and thrive from anywhere, be it outside or in the slot. Outside the Texans otherwise have Chris Conley and Nico Collins, while offseason trade acquisition Anthony Miller figures to play the slot snaps that Cooks doesn't.

The top Jaguars corner is probably Shaquill Griffin, with 2020 ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson

This article will go game by game for the Sunday main slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits in the alignment data of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers very rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formational quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.


 

Houston vs Jacksonville

Houston Wide Receivers

It remains to be seen how the Jaguars handle their secondary personnel, but the clear WR1 for Houston is Brandin Cooks, who can line up and thrive from anywhere, be it outside or in the slot. Outside the Texans otherwise have Chris Conley and Nico Collins, while offseason trade acquisition Anthony Miller figures to play the slot snaps that Cooks doesn't.

The top Jaguars corner is probably Shaquill Griffin, with 2020 ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson close behind. It's not clear how the Jaguars plan to line them up, but Griffin only played one side in Seattle to this point. If Griffin shadows Cooks at any point then Henderson would likely take the remaining outside receiver. Griffin and Henderson are expected to mostly play outside, which would perhaps leave rookie second-round pick Tyson Campbell to play slot corner. If so, Miller should mostly see Campbell, while Cooks mostly sees Griffin and Henderson. Conley and Collins should run mostly against Griffin and Henderson 

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Chris Conley, Anthony Miller


 

Jacksonville Wide Receivers

Houston heads into Week 1 with Vernon Hargreaves and Terrance Mitchell as its top outside corners, while Desmond King is expected to play in the slot. Hargreaves and Mitchell are ill-suited to cover anyone in particular, but DJ Chark is a major vertical danger to both while Marvin Jones threatens to cut them up underneath and in the intermediate. King is the best of the Texans corners, but he shouldn't be a hindrance to Laviska Shenault in the slot. 

Upgrade: DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A
 

Buffalo vs Pittsburgh

Buffalo Wide Receivers


Stefon Diggs is a menace to any secondary, and Pittsburgh's isn't anywhere near good enough to concern him. He should mostly face off against left corner Joe Haden and right corner Cam Sutton. Justin Layne and Ahkello Witherspoon also figure to factor in at outside corner – perhaps Sutton would move inside when this occurs. Whoever covers Cole Beasley in the slot might be ill-suited for the task, and things might not go much better for whoever needs to cover Emmanuel Sanders. Gabriel Davis should run the routes farthest downfield for Buffalo.


Upgrade: Stefon Diggs
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis
 


 

Pittsburgh Wide Receivers

Buffalo uses Tre'Davious White as its shadow corner when the opportunity presents itself, but the Steelers might not be such a case. The Steelers don't have a clear WR1 between Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson or JuJu Smith-Schuster, so the Bills might opt to play White on one side under the assumption that one of those three receivers will end up against him each play. If the Bills do use White as a shadow it might be against Claypool, whose speed perhaps makes him more threatening to Buffalo CB2 Levi Wallace than Johnson or Smith-Schuster.

Johnson should run almost exclusively against White and Wallace on some basis or another, while Claypool should split his reps between those two corners and whoever he sees on slot reps – Taron Johnson might be the best bet there. If you're a Diontae or Claypool investor you want them to run against Wallace as much as possible, but Taron can be beaten too. Smith-Schuster should mostly see Taron.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster 

Carolina vs Jets


Carolina Wide Receivers

All of the Carolina receivers are looking decent here. The Jets don't have much proven talent at corner, where Bryce Hall is the leader outside and Javelin Guidry the main slot man. Three rookies are listed as the first-team corner opposite Hall – fifth-round pick Jason Pinnock, sixth-round pick Brandin Echols and undrafted Isaiah Dunn. All three of the rookies boast standout tools, but in the meantime their skill sets are at best unproven.

If Terrace Marshall runs from the slot then he's unlikely to create separation from Guidry, who's one of the league's fastest corners. At 5-foot-9 Guidry is ill-suited to match up to Marshall when the ball is in the air, however, and Marshall's strong suit is working above the rim. DJ Moore and Robby Andreson are unlikely to run away from the young, speedy Jets boundary corners, but the talented wideout duo should have the route-running upper hand to get the youngsters turned the wrong way. 

Upgrade: DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


 
 

Jets Wide Receivers

The Panthers don't have a lot of depth at corner, yet that depth is already being tested with AJ Bouye (suspension) and Troy Pride (injury) unavailable. Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson are the top two in the meantime. Horn, the much anticipated eighth overall pick out of South Carolina, is a candidate to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers. Against the Jets that might mean targeting Corey Davis, but otherwise Davis should see Horn on one side and Jackson on the other. 

If Jamison Crowder (COVID) can't play then that would leave most remaining reps for Elijah Moore and Keelan Cole outside. If Crowder doesn't play then one of Moore or Cole would likely pick up the subsequent slot snaps. The Panthers might have to get clever with their slot coverage, using linebackers and safeties there more than usual, otherwise their slot corner might be the untested Stantley Thomas-Oliver. Whoever runs in the slot for the Jets figures to have the easiest matchup, in any case.


Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole
 

Tennessee vs Arizona


Tennessee Wide Receivers

A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are both in a blowup spot here. The Cardinals are expected to start Byron Murphy and Robert Alford at outside corner, and neither one of them has much of a prayer against either Titans receiver. Both Brown and Jones have major advantages in every sense – build, athleticism and skill are decisively against these two Arizona cornerbacks. Murphy might move inside in nickel formations, in which case highly athletic rookie fourth-round pick Marco Wilson might step in outside. Wilson (4.35 40) can run with Brown and Julio, but whether he can wrap them up is a separate question.

Upgrade: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


 

Arizona Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins ran almost always outside and on the left last year, so if that continues then A.J. Green should mostly run on the right. They should run mostly against Janoris Jenkins and Kristian Fulton, neither of whom are well-built to match up with bigger receivers like Hopkins and Green. The slot corner for Tennessee might be third-round rookie pick Elijah Molden – a fine prospect but one who lacks the athleticism to match stride with Christian Kirk or Rondale Moore.
 

Upgrade: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A 

Washington vs Chargers

Washington Wide Receivers


Terry McLaurin is a beast and these corners, though good, probably can't tame him. Chris Harris is too small and slow, Michael Davis probably can't him laterally, and Asante Samuel is making his first NFL appearance out of Florida State. It seems unlikely that the Chargers would try to shadow McLaurin with any of these three.

Samuel might be ready to slow fellow rookie and former ACC star Dyami Brown, and Davis should be able to hold his own against Brown, too. Adam Humphries is a competent slot receiver but one Harris should be able to slow. If Washington gives snaps to Cam Sims he will likely do nothing with them unless the defense forgets to cover him. 

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Adam Humphries
Even: Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown


 

Chargers Wide Receivers 

This Washington defense is tough, and its secondary is improved from last year. It'll take strong wide receiver play to produce against this personnel. Keenan Allen can answer that call – he's a beast and can compete against any defense. The other Chargers wide receivers might be less qualified for the task ahead of them.

William Jackson could prove a menace at outside corner after signing in free agency, and Kendall Fuller is a totally solid starter both outside and in the slot. It's not clear how Washington's corner personnel will work aside from those two – Benjamin St-Juste is a candidate to match up with bigger receivers and could see some of Mike Williams as a result – but otherwise safeties Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain can play the slot, which would allow Washington to keep Fuller outside opposite Jackson. St-Juste might be the best-case matchup for Williams, if only because he's a rookie. Josh Palmer will probably need busted coverage to get open against these guys. 

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Mike Williams, Josh Palmer
Even: Keenan Allen
 

Cincinnati vs Minnesota


Cincinnati Wide Receivers

The Vikings pass defense was bad last year. They added Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland at outside corner with the hopes of changing that, but the aging veterans haven't played well in years, and Breeland was never especially good. Mackensie Alexander is a good slot corner, at least.

Still, none of these Vikings corners are concerning for any of the Bengals wideouts. Tee Higgins can go toe to toe with any corner in the league, and while Peterson has the frame to match up well with Higgins, there's no guarantee he can actually run with Higgins. Breeland definitely can't match up with Higgins. Perhaps Breeland can match up with Ja'Marr Chase as the rookie shakes off the rust from a year out of football, but that's Breeland's only prayer. Tyler Boyd can hold serve against any slot corner, Alexander included. The way this goes wrong for Cincinnati is if a Danielle Hunter-led pass rush all of a sudden looks fierce again.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Ja'Marr Chase 


 

Minnesota Wide Receivers

These Bengals corners can't cover these guys. Outside corners Chidobe Awuzie and Trae Waynes can definitely run and have decent frames, but you need more than that against elite route runners like Justin Jackson and Adam Thielen. In the slot Mike Hilton is known more for his blitzing than his coverage, so he's no hindrance to Thielen or whoever else might run from there. 

Upgrade: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A
 

Detroit vs San Francisco

Detroit Wide Receivers

The 49ers return most of their 2020 personnel on defense, but they'll have to run it without Robert Saleh for the first time since 2016. It'll be interesting to see how the 49ers coverages hold up in light of that, but in the meantime Jason Verrett is still a beast in man coverage. Fellow starter Emmanuel Moseley has had strong results to this point also, as has slot corner K'Waun Williams in recent years. Even if the 49ers regress somewhat on defense, this is a tough matchup for a Lions offense that needs all the help it can get.

Williams should be able to play competently against Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Quintez Cephus doesn't have an obvious upper hand against the outside 49ers corners. If the Lions have an edge it might rest with Tyrell Williams, who has legitimate vertical speed and a 6-foot-4 frame much bigger than Verrett or Moseley, both of them slight and under six feet tall.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus
Even: Tyrell Williams
 

San Francisco Wide Receivers

The Shanahan offense doesn't have as many traditional route interactions as most offenses, so theoretical matchups matter less for Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, especially with how dependent they are on YAC production. With that said, the matchups here aren't concerning either. Jeff Okudah struggled badly his rookie year and Amani Oruwariye has only been decent. It's not clear who will cover the slot for Detroit, where Mohamed Sanu might be the primary target for San Francisco. 

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Mohamed Sanu 

Atlanta vs Philadelphia

Atlanta Wide Receivers 

Calvin Ridley is a monster and the Falcons have no choice but to feed him. Matchups don't matter for him, though in this case he might see shadow coverage from the otherwise good Darius Slay. It just seems likely that Ridley is a better receiver than Slay is a corner. 

If Slay shadows Ridley then it might leave Steven Nelson to cover the other outside receiver. Russell Gage might be that player, though it remains to be seen how the Falcons split up their wide receiver alignments in three-wide sets. Nelson was a good player with Pittsburgh but in a role that didn't demand much man coverage from him. Gage isn't good, but Nelson might not be either. The slot corner figures to be Avonte Maddox, who badly struggled outside last year but might be rejuvenated by a move back inside. 

Whatever the specifics of the Philadelphia secondary, the much greater concern for the Atlanta passing game is the Philadelphia pass rush. The Eagles might be a slight mess, but that front four is as deep as any in the league.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage


 

Philadelphia Wide Receivers

The Falcons secondary personnel is lacking, to the point that defensive coordinator Dean Pees might look to utilize a lot of zone looks rather than test the luck of his corners in aggressive man coverage. The more zones the Falcons run, the worse it might bode for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles pass catchers, simply because it makes the game less about athleticism and more about anticipation. Hurts might make it as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but passing will never be his strength.

With that said, DeVonta Smith in particular should get open in this setting. AJ Terrell is a good corner but Smith can probably beat him, and the remaining Falcons corners (Fabian Moreau and Isaiah Oliver) are basically just bad. Moreau can run and Oliver could be better in the slot than he has been outside to this point in his career, but they're still overmatched not just against Smith but potentially also Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. 

Upgrade: DeVonta Smith
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins
 

Indianapolis vs Seattle

Indianapolis Wide Receivers

Tre Flowers has been beaten relentlessly for his entire career and D.J. Reed is at best unproven, especially outside of the slot. We have reason to believe this is one of the worst starting cornerback tandems in the NFL. Sidney Jones showed a little something in Jacksonville last year after the Eagles cut him, but he too projects among the league's worst third corners.

Perhaps Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell are unproven, but they haven't proven any less than these corners. If you're a Pittman investor you want him against Reed as much as possible – at 5-foot-9 he just isn't suited to grapple with a 6-foot-4 wideout like Pittman. If you're a Campbell investor you want him against Flowers as much as possible, because Flowers crosses field about as well as a Winnebago making a sharp turn. Be it outside or in the slot, Zach Pascal has the skill set to log quality reps against any of these corners, too. Perhaps the Colts blow it anyway, but their passing game matchup here is good. 

Upgrade: Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A 


 

Seattle Wide Receivers

If Xavier Rhodes (calf) isn't 100 percent then this could be a blowup spot for DK Metcalf, whose vertical threat overrides the otherwise dangerous zone coverages conceived by defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Perhaps it's not easy to throw into the teeth of the Colts defense with its various disguises, but fast is fast and if Metcalf goes in a straight line no zone can save the Colts from the task of sound matched-up coverage. Players like Rock Ya-Sin simply won't cut it against Metcalf without a great deal of extra safety help.

If the Colts sell out to stop Metcalf then someone else will get loose. Tyler Lockett is of course the best candidate for this, and he too can dust these Colts corners deep. Slot man Kenny Moore is a good corner, but he thrives more in the box than he does downfield. Dee Eskridge could also prove threatening if the Colts don't keep an eye on him. 

Upgrade: DK Metcalf
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyler Lockett, Dee Eskridge

New England vs Miami

New England Wide Receivers

Miami has some tough corners. The ones you want to avoid are Xavien Howard and Byron Jones outside. They have 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene and Nik Needham to play the slot and they might be competent this year, but even if so they will always be easier targets than Howard and Jones outside.

If it's hard to throw outside on this defense than that's bad for Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. It's not exactly ideal for Jakobi Meyers – he will play outside at times too – but it does invite a potential funnel dynamic toward Meyer's part of the field. Perhaps he'll extend his no-touchdown streak, but Meyers might need to see more than six targets in this game if Jones and Howard cut off the outside. 

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne
Even: Jakobi Meyers

Miami Wide Receivers

JC Jackson is a beast at corner and one who might shadow opposing WR1s, especially while Stephon Gilmore is out with injury. It's still not obvious how Jackson will match up against the Dolphins. The Patriots used Gilmore to shadow DeVante Parker in the past and might use Jackson in the same capacity, but it's also possible that the Patriots see Parker as less threatening than two years ago. Plus, the Patriots didn't have to worry about Jaylen Waddle then. There's a non-zero chance the Patriots are more concerned with Waddle than Parker.

If Jackson does shadow Parker then that would make Waddle more interesting, and vice versa. Slot corner Jonathan Jones is probably a good one, and crucially he has the athleticism to run with someone like Waddle, so Waddle would ideally get more looks against Jalen Mills, who probably has no prayer of running with Waddle.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DeVante Parker (lower to downgrade if shadowed by Jackson), Jaylen Waddle

Kansas City vs Cleveland

Kansas City Wide Receivers 

It's not clear whether the Browns intend to use Denzel Ward as a shadow corner in 2021, nor is it clear whether he would follow Tyreek Hill into the slot on applicable plays. Not that he needs it this way to put up big numbers, but the less Hill sees of Ward the better for Hill.

First-round pick Greg Newsome should give the Browns a big upgrade opposite Ward relative to Cleveland's 2020 personnel, and Troy Hill might man the slot after playing there for the Rams. If the Browns let Tyreek get matched up against Troy that will be a wrap in a hurry. That goes for Mecole Hardman too – the Browns don't want to leave Hill isolated against receivers this fast. Ward and Newsome, by contrast, can run with these guys as well as you can reasonable ask of a cornerback.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson


 

Cleveland Wide Receivers 

The Chiefs are deep and varied at cornerback. Charvarius Ward is a big, athletic corner who defends the sideline and vertical routes well, and on the other side L'Jarius Sneed might be even better. Some rotation of Tyrann Mathieu, Mike Hughes and Rashad Fenton figure to man the slot, and Mathieu/Fenton in particular are proven in this capacity. There's no obvious weak spot here.

Still, Odell Beckham has a talent advantage against almost anyone if he he's healthy, and he appears to be reasonably healthy from last year's season-ending ACL tear. Don't count out Jarvis Landry against this crew either – it'll be a battle but Landry can still hold his own. The remaining targets might be meager for Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins, but they are a strong WR3/4 tandem and should pose a threat if there is any usage left to distribute.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins

Giants vs Denver

Giants Wide Receivers

This Denver secondary is loaded. The question isn't whether they'll be good, it's whether there will be five better secondaries in the NFL. With Daniel Jones, Jason Garrett and the Giants offensive line thrown in, you've got the potential for some truly ugly play on offense.

Kenny Golladay might have a prayer anyway since he's a chuck-ball wideout who can reel it in even if he's covered downfield. It's more difficult to conceive of any hope for Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, though both players are good for their own part. It's just not fair to expect anyone in particular to do well in this offense, let alone when they have to run against a corner rotation as strong as Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan and Patrick Surtain.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton
Even: N/A


 

Denver Wide Receivers

This is a tough matchup for both offenses. The Broncos are in a better spot than the Giants, but the Broncos are in a difficult spot too.

James Bradberry was one of the league's top shadow corners last year, and he's lab-designed to stop a receiver exactly like Courtland Sutton. Sutton can still make plays against Bradbury because good players can win even in bad matchups, but this is a bad matchup if it happens. Sutton investors should hope he can instead get a crack at Adoree' Jackson, who Sutton might be able to box out at least.

If Bradbury shadows Sutton then it would otherwise leave Jackson to cover the other outside receiver, be it Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, or KJ Hamler. Jackson is a good corner with real speed, so he could be a real obstacle too. The slot coverage will probably come mostly from safeties Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney, and while they're good in that capacity they might not be as effective as Bradbury and Jackson are in theirs. The slot might therefore be the easiest place to target in this defense, and if so that would probably be good news for Jeudy and to a lesser extent Hamler.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick
Even: Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler

New Orleans vs Green Bay

New Orleans Wide Receivers

The Packers didn't usually use Jaire Alexander as a shadow corner last year, so the Packers might not send him after Marquez Callaway here. If Alexander plays just one side then the Saints would be wise – almost compelled – to line up Callaway anywhere else. Alexander can shut down anyone and Callaway would likely struggle against him if shadowed, but against the other Green Bay corners Callaway might be able to get loose. Kevin King can't cover anyone outside, and in the slot Chandon Sullivan has only been serviceable. It's not clear whether or where first-round pick Eric Stokes might play, but he generally has the look of an outside corner, where the Packers evidently plan to fail with King for now.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Marquez Callaway (lower to 'downgrade' if shadowed by Alexander), Tre'Quan Smith, Lil'Jordan Humphrey

Green Bay Wide Receivers

Perhaps the Saints will try to shadow Davante Adams with Marshon Lattimore, but it likely wouldn't change anything for the better and so they might instead leave Lattimore on one side of the field and just aim to add help coverage to whoever gets left with Adams on a given play. That too will likely do little or nothing to slow Adams.

The Saints lack cornerback depth, so even against Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb the non-Lattimore corners might need some extra help. If the Saints roll too much help at Adams then any of the other Packers receivers could cause damage on the play in question. Rookie third-round pick Paulson Adebo has the size and athleticism to run with Lazard and Valdes-Scantling, but the Stanford defense was a mess last year and Adebo probably gets some of the blame. Below average journeyman Ken Crawley might start over Adebo in the meantime, but that's not a good thing for the Saints. They're overmatched here.

Upgrade: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

Rams vs Chicago

Rams Wide Receivers

This Bears corner rotation has one good player: Jaylon Johnson. The rest are cruising for a bruising. Even Johnson will be challenged – Robert Woods has the route running skills to hurt almost any corner, while DeSean Jackson has the speed to lose Johnson vertically. With that said, Kindle Vildor and Artie Burns might struggle so much at the other two corner spots that the Rams might mostly leave Johnson alone. Burns can't play anywhere but he really can't play the slot, where the otherwise athletic Vildor might get the worst of what Cooper Kupp does in this game. It's an on-paper advantage for Kupp.

Upgrade: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


 

Chicago Wide Receivers

It's always a downgrade when you go against Jalen Ramsey, and it's not disrespecting Allen Robinson to note that. Still, Robinson is a truly elite player and not one who should ever see the bench. Darnell Mooney gets a tough matchup himself against Darious Williams, who has quietly been one of the better corners in the NFL the last two years. The Bears would do well to try to get Mooney matched up against the third corner – be it David Long, Terrell Burgess or Robert Rochell – and have Marquise Goodwin run decoy/clearing routes against Williams instead to keep Williams' impact minimized. Unfortunately, this generally looks like a bad spot for the Chicago passing game.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin
Even: N/A

Las Vegas vs Baltimore

Las Vegas Wide Receivers

It's not clear whether the Ravens consider any of Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards or Hunter Renfrow worth the shadow coverage attention of the elite Marlon Humphrey, but it would be understandable if they didn't.

In the past Humphrey tended to cover the slot when he wasn't shadowing opposing No. 1 wide receivers, but following the injury to outside corner Marcus Peters the Ravens might need to put Humphrey outside more often in 2021. If so, he might primarily be the problem of Edwards, who figures to work out of the slot much less than Ruggs and especially Renfrow. That would be bad for Edwards, but if the Ravens only use Humphrey on one side (he's listed at Right CB on the Ravens depth chart) then the Raiders might be able to keep Edwards away from Humphrey by running Edwards on the right side of the offense (against the left corner). If Edwards is outside and Humphrey isn't on him then it likely means Jimmy Smith is. Smith is the prototype for countering a big receiver like Edwards, but at 33 Smith is the far preferable target between himself and Humphrey.

Renfrow should mostly see slot specialist Tavon Young, who's likely a competent player in that role. Ruggs should see some of Young too while otherwise splitting his time against Humphrey and Smith. Speed like Ruggs' can get past anyone, but Smith especially needs to be careful around Ruggs.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards (downgrade if shadowed by Humphrey), Hunter Renfrow


 

Baltimore Wide Receivers

All of the Ravens receivers look solid here. Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins will serve as the lead wideouts, with Devin Duvernay and James Proche first off the bench otherwise. Duvernay might be the main backup outside and Proche the main slot backup, it's hard to know right now. Duvernay might also be the top swing backup both outside and in the slot. Don't forget, Mark Andrews will play many more slot snaps this year than most starting tight ends, so Baltimore's WR slot snap supply might be lower than it appears at a glance.

When outside Watkins and Brown should mostly see Trayvon Mullen, listed at left corner, and Casey Hayward listed at right. Mullen has some height and some speed and probably matches up better with Watkins than small and exceptionally fast Brown, but Watkins can beat Mullen too. Both Watkins and Brown are much too fast for Hayward, who excels underneath but can't keep up with either of the Ravens starters, or Duvernay, for more than 15 yards or so. Hayward might move into the slot in three-wide formations, and his lack of speed might prove inconsequential there as long as the Ravens don't send Brown deep against him. If Hayward moves inside in three wide then it might leave Damon Arnette to step in outside, and pretty much any NFL receiver can beat him.

Upgrade: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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