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Corner Report: Week 3

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.

Buffalo vs Washington


William Jackson and Kendall Fuller are a good starting duo at corner, even if the results haven't been there so much through two weeks. Fuller tends to move into the slot in three-wide sets, leaving rookie third-round pick Benjamin St-Juste to step in on outside opposite Jackson. Buffalo logs more wide receiver snaps than most teams, so Jackson/Fuller/St-Juste should be the primary loadout of the Washington secondary. Cole Beasley should see the most of Fuller, while Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders should split their time fairly evenly against Jackson and St-Juste. It's the rookie they should go after – Jackson can definitely play, and in the meantime St-Juste is at best unproven.

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


Terry McLaurin is a candidate to see shadow coverage from Tre'Davious White, the clear CB1 for Buffalo. It's arguable that McLaurin is a better receiver than White is a corner, but it still may be easier for Taylor Heinicke to target the likes of Levi Wallace and slot corner Taron Johnson.Johnson should mostly cover slot receiver Adam Humphries, and if White shadows McLaurin then Wallace should mostly see Dyami Brown. Wallace needs to worry about getting beat deep by Brown, because Wallace's main deficiency is speed and Brown's primarily a vertical threat. Brown has the easiest matchup of the three, even if he's not necessarily the best bet of the three to win his matchup.

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

Tennessee vs Indianapolis

Tennessee Wide Receivers

Colts corner Xavier Rhodes might be able to return from the calf injury that kept him out the first two weeks. Rhodes can probably be expected to line up on the right side whenever he does return, and there he would be the primary matchup for A.J. Brown, who through two games has mostly run on the left side of the offense. Brown should also see some of left corner Rock Ya-Sin, but that would more so be the primary matchup for Julio Jones. A healthy Rhodes is tougher than Ya-Sin, but if he's limited by his calf injury then Rhodes is more vulnerable than usual to Brown. The Colts secondary is struggling right now and guys like Brown and Jones aren't what they want to see. Chester Rogers is the main slot receiver and he should generally face off against Kenny Moore, a formidable player.

Upgrade: Julio Jones Downgrade: N/A Even: A.J. Brown (upgrade if Rhodes is out)


Michael Pittman finally had a big game in Week 2, and that opponent (the Rams) are a much better defense than this one. The Titans have awful personnel at corner until Caleb Farley can step up, and apparently that's not now. Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell also have the upper hand on these corners. Janoris Jenkins is aging and too small to safely match up against these players, and Pittman at 6-foot-4 is a problem especially. Kristian Fulton might turn out to be a good player at the other corner spot, but he hasn't quite earned the benefit of the doubt yet. Rookie slot corner Elijah Molden should match stride with Pascal but can't defend the rim against him. Campbell, on the other hand, will run right past Molden if the Colts try to do something smart (still waiting).

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

Giants vs Atlanta

Giants Wide Receivers

A.J. Terrell plays the left corner spot for Atlanta while Fabian Moreau lines up on the right. They're both big and very athletic, but Moreau's NFL results have always been poor and Terrell remains slightly unproven despite his generally promising work in the NFL to this point. Terrell is also questionable with a concussion. It's Moreau who's the easier target, in any case. Through two weeks the Giants have deployed Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton with mostly even left/right splits, but it might be wise for them to keep Golladay on the left side of the offense, facing Moreau on the right side of the defense, as often as possible. Slot corner Isaiah Oliver will have to face the red-hot Sterling Shepard, a matchup where Shepard almost certainly holds the advantage. If Atlanta slows Shepard they probably went to unusual lengths to give Oliver help.

Upgrade: Sterling Shepard Downgrade: N/A Even: Kenny Golladay (raise to Upgrade if Terrell is out), Darius Slayton (raise to Upgrade if Terrell is out)

Atlanta Wide Receivers

The Giants tend to use James Bradberry as shadow corner, so he's a strong candidate to follow Calvin Ridley all over the field. The question of who wins isn't certain – Ridley can win against pretty much anyone, and a lot of what makes Bradberry so good goes to waste against a receiver like Ridley anyway. Bradberry is at his best against big, physical receivers, and Ridley is more of a finesse type. Of course, if the Atlanta offensive line and Matt Ryan don't hold up then it might not matter who wins between Ridley and Bradberry. Adoree' Jackson might not see much of Ridley but Jackson is no slouch – he has the heavy advantage over any non-Ridley wideout on Atlanta. Russell Gage would normally be the WR2, but he might be out with an ankle injury. Backup receiver Frank Darby also might miss the game, so the second wideout for Atlanta might have to be Olamide Zaccheaus. Zaccheaus fits better in the slot than outside at just 5-foot-8, and though a decent player he projects poorly against a corner on Jackson's level.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: Olamide Zaccheaus Even: Calvin Ridley

Detroit vs Baltimore


Quintez Cephus would normally be a candidate for shadow coverage from elite corner Marlon Humphrey since Tyrell Williams (concussion) is out, but it's also possible that Humphrey is deployed against tight end T.J. Hockenson when Hockenson splits out. Cephus might be able to get open if he avoids Humphrey – CB2 Jimmy Smith (ankle) has yet to debut in 2021, and at 33 he might be a beatable cover for Cephus anyway. Kalif Raymond and Trinity Benson should both play but mostly as speed decoys. If someone other than Cephus draws targets it would probably be Amon-Ra St. Brown, who generally runs from the slot and should mostly face competent slot corner Tavon Young.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: Quintez Cephus (lower to 'downgrade' if shadowed by Humphrey), Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Trinity Benson


The Detroit defense doesn't appear capable of posing much resistance to any team in particular, so this should set up well for the Ravens pass catchers. Marquise Brown (ankle) would normally be the top candidate to capitalize and might still be, but it's unclear how significant his ankle injury might be. Brown mostly lines up on the right, so if he is limited or can't play the resulting snaps would probably be on the right side. Sammy Watkins mostly plays on the left as a result. Amani Oruwariye plays right corner for Detroit, meaning he should see the most of Watkins. It's a winnable matchup for Watkins but not necessarily an easy one – Oruwariye isn't proven exactly but his size and athleticism mirrors that of Watkins. The left corner might need to be Bobby Priceafter injuries to Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu. Price is big at 6-foot-3, but he's usually more of a practice squad type than a starter. If Price matches up against Brown that would be a way for Detroit to invite disaster. Devin Duvernay played the third most wideout snaps for Baltimore in Week 2 but Lamar Jackson has shown no inclination to throw to him.

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

Jacksonville vs Arizona


Laviska Shenault might get the toughest one-on-one matchup against the Arizona secondary, because Shenault tends to run from the slot and the Arizona slot corner in Byron Murphy – likely the best player between himself, right corner Marco Wilson and left corner Robert Alford. Murphy and Wilson are both dealing with ankle injuries, so if either is out or limited that's good news for all Jaguars receivers. DJ Chark tends to run on the left more than the right and Marvin Jones the right more than the left, so Chark should see the most of Wilson and Jones the most of Alford. More than the cornerback personnel, the concern for the Jaguars wideouts is quarterback Trevor Lawrence's ability to manage pressure and throw accurately.

Upgrade: DJ Chark, Marvin Jones Downgrade: N/A Even: Laviska Shenault (raise to Upgrade if Murphy is out)


DeAndre Hopkins is dealing with a rib injury that warrants close monitoring, but if he's able to play his usual three-down role then he'll likely do it at left outside receiver while A.J. Green plays the right outside receiver position. Christian Kirk is the primary slot receiver, while Rondale Moore is the swing backup between the slot and outside. If Hopkins is out or limited then Moore might get some of those snaps on the left side,

The primary left corner for Jacksonville is Shaquill Griffin, who's likely the best of the group. C.J. Henderson is the primary right corner, and Tre Herndon might be able to make his 2021 debut as Jacksonville's primary slot corner this week. Henderson is a top corner prospect and Herndon has a lot of experience at least, but there's no reason to believe either is much of an obstacle to the Arizona receivers. Somebody – maybe Chris Claybrooks – will have to play a lot of additional slot snaps due to Arizona's four-wide tendencies. The toughest matchup of this group is probably Griffin on Green – every other Arizona receiver has the advantage otherwise.

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

Kansas City vs Chargers


Chris Harris (shoulder) is out again, so it leaves a greater burden for Derwin James to cover in the slot. Michael Davis is the right corner and Asante Samuel the left corner. Samuel has had better results to this point in the year, but Davis is the bigger and faster of the two. For them to slow down Tyreek Hill will take a bit of luck and innovative scheming. There's reason to believe Brandon Staley is better than most at securing the second variable – we'll see about the luck part. Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are both involved otherwise as the third and fourth-leading targets, but predicting their box score appearances is difficult given their peripheral roles. Both should see a mostly even split of snaps between Davis and Samuel.

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


The Chiefs have a variety of secondary personnel packages they'll use in different situations, but their closest thing to a base defense is one that features L'Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward at right and left corner, respectively, with Tyrann Mathieu lined up at safety. In some three-wide formations they'll move Sneed into the slot and bring in Mike Hughes to take Sneed's previous outside spot. Other time Mathieu will play the slot, and he's rarely a welcome sight for a route runner.

Keenan Allen should mostly face some combination of Sneed and Mathieu. As much as a player like Allen is always capable of winning a tough matchup, it might be difficult all the same. Mike Williams is in the midst of a breakout season and could keep it rolling here, but Ward and Sneed have better reach than most corners and match up well with size. Hughes would be in trouble against Williams one-on-one, though. Jalen Guyton is doing something out there, but to this point he has been used only underneath after only being used downfield in 2021. It's not clear whether the matchup means anything for him or if he sort of just needs the defense to forget about him to get open.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton

Cleveland vs Chicago


Odell Beckham (knee) should finally make his 2021 debut Sunday, which is certainly welcome news for Baker Mayfield. Less so for the Bears secondary, which features one of the league's thinnest cornerback rotations. Right corner Jaylon Johnson is one of the league's best cornerback prospects, but speed isn't his strong suit and if Beckham is 90 percent healthy he can pose a unique downfield threat. Just as importantly, the Browns can simply line up Beckham on the right side of the offense to get away from Johnson. Kindle Vildor covers that side, and while athletic he's at best unproven. Slot corner Duke Shelley probably should be a backup.

The absence of Jarvis Landry sets this up for a fast start for Beckham in his return. If not Beckham then Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz can hurt this defense deep. If Rashard Higgins is the Landry replacement in the slot then he's probably your second-best bet for production after Beckham.


Allen Robinson has to get going eventually, but this week might be tough. The Browns corners are stronger than they've ever been, with Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome both appearing imposing on the outside. Robinson is significantly bigger than both and is perfectly comfortable boxing out by the rim, so he can still make plays even if he doesn't get open. The same can't be said for Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin – they both need to create actual separation to consistently produce – but they are substantial talents and shouldn't be counted out. Still, between Cleveland's cornerback personnel, the dubious Bears offensive line and Justin Fields making a road start, the Bears offense could face challenging conditions Sunday.

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

New England vs New Orleans


Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers are the two leading receivers for the Patriots. In base formations they'll see Marshon Lattimore and perhaps trade acquisition Bradley Roby. Neither corner is a world beater, but both are capable of playing at high levels, and capable of handling receivers like these. When the Patriots feature a slot rep that will usually go to Meyers, and in such cases he might instead run against Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson is toolsy but probably beatable. The Saints secondary looks at least competent in light of the Roby trade, in any case.

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


JC Jackson is a beast at corner, and at times New England will use him to shadow opposing WR1s. It's not clear whether Marquez Callaway meets that definition for the Patriots, but if not Jackson would mostly line up on the left side. Jalen Mills is probably not that great at right corner, but the Patriots value him as a scheme fit. Slot corner Jonathan Jones is probably one of the best in the league. Overall it's a solid if not strong rotation, and these Saints pass catchers don't have the talent to step to them. Trickery or fluky outcomes are what the Saints need here.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: Marquez Callaway, everyone else Even: N/A

Pittsburgh vs Cincinnati


Diontae Johnson is out so the Steelers will need more snaps from James Washington, who's less an underneath target like Johnson and more of a downfield target. We'll see if Ben Roethlisbergerhas any use for the latter, but generally there's no reason to suspect it. Washington can probably play fairly well for his own part, though. Assuming Washington plays outside in Johnson's prior spot, JuJu Smith-Schuster would still run from the slot most of the time while Chase Claypoolmoves all over the place. The Cincinnati corners can do some things well – Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple are both athletic outside corners, and former Steeler Mike Hilton has had a distinguished career as a slot corner, but Hilton is much smaller than Smith-Schuster and might get picked on a bit for it. Awuzie and Apple are both more toolsy than productive – especially Apple – but at least they can match stride with Claypool and Washington. Whether they can mirror the routes is a much different question, and less of a concern for the Pittsburgh wideouts than the play of Ben Roethlisberger.

Upgrade: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool Downgrade: N/A Even: James Washington


With Tee Higgins likely out the Bengals leave Joe Burrow with yet another dreary task in his short NFL career, this time heading to Pittsburgh where aggressive blitzing and after-the-whistle extras are likely waiting for him and the rest of the Bengals offense. It leaves a lot more slack for Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd, and players with their level of talent can win in difficult conditions, but the pass rush might be lively and Burrow might not accurately assess everything he's seeing. Left corner Joe Haden and right corner/slot corner Cameron Sutton look capable of executing the Pittsburgh scheme up to its usual standards, and a lot of times that's enough for the defense even when they otherwise look like on-paper losers in a wide receiver matchup. Perhaps Ahkello Witherspoon will make his Pittsburgh debut here, but if not James Pierre will be the third corner, replacing Sutton at right corner when Sutton moves into the slot.

Chase has run on the left side more than the right to this point, so (to this point) WR4 Mike Thomas might handle most of the snaps on the right. This would leave Chase mostly with Sutton/Pierre/Witherspoon and Thomas mostly with Haden, while Boyd mostly runs against Sutton.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: N/A

Denver vs Jets


Courtland Sutton looked more like himself in Week 2, and he gets a good shot to keep it rolling here. The Jets have a couple corners with similar body types in starter Bryce Hall and backup Jason Pinnock, but rather than Pinnock it's been Brandin Echols playing as the starter opposite Hall. Echols is small and skinnyish – he wants no part of Sutton. Nor does Echols want much to do with Tim Patrick. These Denver receivers play above the rim and if a corner can't then they're liable to get beat. KJ Hamler can burn past anyone, rookie slot corner Michael Carter included. The Jets secondary is in a difficult spot here.

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


Corey Davis is a good player who should have usage in his favor, but matchup-wise this is a tough draw. Outside corners Kyle Fuller and Patrick Surtain are both big, athletic corners and the Vic Fangio scheme makes their job easier than other defenses. The Jets have struggled to pass block, too, which heightens the risk. Braxton Berrios had lots of usage of his own in Week 2, drawing 11 targets, and he'll always do the trick in PPR scoring with target volume like that. Slot corner Bryce Callahan is one of the best, though, so it appears the matchups will be bad for Davis, Berrios and Elijah Moore regardless of the how they shake out.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: Corey Davis, Braxton Berrios, Elijah Moore Even: N/A

Las Vegas vs Miami


Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs have both looked good at times through two weeks, and they should continue to develop well for the Raiders. Outside receivers get the toughest matchup of the Miami defense, though: outside corners Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. That's probably bad for Edwards especially, because Ruggs at least has the burning speed to get a step on even great coverage. Jones and Howard probably have the size to neutralize that aspect of Edwards' game. Hunter Renfrow is the lucky one – he gets to run in the slot and away from both of the feared Miami corners.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: Bryan Edwards Even: Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow


The Raiders have used Casey Hayward and Trayvon Mullen on both sides through two games. It's not clear whether there's a shadowing intention going on there or it has more to do with the strong and weak sides of the playcalling or some other anecdotal reason. Moreover, there's no good candidate for Hayward to shadow on the Miami offense. DeVante Parker is much bigger, and Jaylen Waddle is much more athletic. Still, Jacoby Brissett looked incredibly bad in Week 2 and there's no guarantee two prime Randy Moss' could get anything going with play like what Brissett showed last week. He needs to be much better, but if he is then Parker and Waddle could present troubles for a Raiders secondary that otherwise has good results to this point.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle

Minnesota vs Seattle


Wheels up. Right corner Tre Flowers and left corner DJ Reed might both be in trouble here. Not that it's their fault – no secondary can easily deal with a wideout duo like Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and now we apparently have a third credible threat in K.J. Osborn. Two good games means very little, but Osborn was highly effective in both games and is definitely a good athlete. These three are intimidating right now and the Seahawks have no corner talent in any sense – there's nothing at the top and there's no depth. If Minnesota goes three-wide all game it's hard to see how they fail.

Upgrade: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn Downgrade: N/A Even: N/A


Wheels up. Patrick Peterson and especially Bashaud Breeland cannot run with DK Metcalf, andthe otherwise competent slot corner Mackensie Alexander isn't built to run with a speedster like Tyler Lockett. Freddie Swain is hanging around, too, though of course not nearly as threatening as Metcalf or Lockett. Keep an eye on Breeland to get lit up in this one – Metcalf is his worst prospective matchup but Lockett can run circles around Breeland too.

Upgrade: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett Downgrade: N/A Even: Freddie Swain

Rams vs Tampa Bay


The Rams are perhaps a bit lucky that Jason Pierre-Paul is out – this might allow Matthew Staffordlonger setups, and might allow Sean McVay to call some more ambitious pass concepts. Carlton Davis often functions as a shadow corner but rarely moves into the slot, where Rams WR1 Cooper Kupp tends to run his routes. The Buccaneers will have to get creative with how they defend Kupp, because neither Davis nor Jamel Dean are well-situated to cover him in the slot. Players like safety Antoine Winfield and the linebackers Lavonte David/Devin White might get more involved than usual. It might work, but Kupp is playing at a very high level and Stafford's arm is opening new route possibilities. Robert Woods is due for a breakout game with that said, and he can probably get open against a corner like Dean anyway. Davis might be a shadow candidate against Woods, which wouldn't be ideal for Woods, but he can still win that one too. Van Jefferson doesn't project for the advantage against either of Dean or Davis.

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


Antonio Brown (COVID list) is likely out, which probably helps the usage of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. It's not clear whether Jalen Ramsey will shadow either of the two, but if he does it might be Evans so that the Rams can keep the 5-foot-9 Darious Williams away from the hulking Evans. Williams is very good in general, but putting him against a 6-foot-5, 230-pound player is just asking for trouble. With that said, Ramsey has been the general slot corner for the Rams this year, so if that continues here he might be the primary matchup for Godwin. Whoever sees less of Ramsey is in a very good position in terms of the cornerback matchup, assuming other aspects of the Rams defense can't step up against the remaining player. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson are the replacement candidates with Brown out, and both players have talent to work with. Unfortunately they might split the remaining workload evenly, with Miller taking more of the downfield routes and Johnson perhaps stepping in once the field gets smaller.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: Mike Evans (raise to Upgrade if Ramsey shadows Godwin), Chris Godwin (arguable Downgrade if shadowed by Ramsey), Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson

San Francisco vs Green Bay


Whoever runs against Kevin King is in a position to produce even before you factor in the benefits of the Kyle Shanahan offense. King lines up on the right side and even saw slot snaps against the Lions – very bad idea! The 49ers have created a lot of slot looks for Deebo Samuel through two weeks, and he's gone nuts to this point. If Samuel gets looks at King it could go very badly for Green Bay. Although, that could be the case almost regardless of who's running against King – it would also be a great spot for Brandon Aiyuk to finally get his season on track. Samuel is thriving with his heavily increased workload, though, so the 49ers might keep feeding him if it keeps working.

Green Bay might want to consider shadowing Samuel with Jaire Alexander, who's one of the very best defenders in the league but one offenses can easily avoid when the Packers leave him at left corner all game. The Packers experimented with Alexander getting some slot snaps last week to get rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes on the field at outside corner, so perhaps Alexander will be in position to cover Samuel in this one. Still, it's always easier said than done to tackle Samuel after the catch. Stokes is a huge upgrade on King outside and Chandon Sullivan is an upgrade over King in the slot, so the Packers could make their defense better if they make the choice. To this point they appear determined to see how much King can single-handedly drag down the team.

Upgrade: N/A Downgrade: N/A Even: Deebo Samuel (raise to Upgrade if not covered by Alexander), Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield


The Packers offensive line has a lot to worry about. Elgton Jenkins is out, leaving Green Bay down to their third-string left tackle as they prepare to deal with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. If the Green Bay offensive line can miraculously hold up, though, Aaron Rodgers might be in position to produce against the 49ers beat-up cornerback crew.

Rookie fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir looks like a good one – he's quite athletic and has been effective through two starts at left corner. Meanwhile, right corner Emmanuel Moseleymight be able to return to the field after missing Week 2 with a knee issue. If Moseley can't play then Josh Norman would likely start at right corner. No 49ers corner can run deep with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but especially not Norman. If Moseley is out that's quite bad for the 49ers.

No matter how it goes against Valdes-Scantling or how well K'Waun Williams plays against Allen Lazard in the slot, Davante Adams is likely to menace the San Francisco secondary. If the 49ers pass rush can't take advantage of Jenkins' absence then Adams' standard presence and the heightened threat of Valdes-Scantling downfield might be a difficult combination for the 49ers. If the pass rush gets lively, though, then the Packers receivers might not be able to capitalize on whatever advantage they might have.

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