- Rams CB Jalen Ramsey shadowed for the first time all season in Week 10 against Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins.
- Commanders WR Terry McLaurin has largely won all six of his shadow matchups through 10 weeks of action.
- Get your popcorn ready for another shadow date between Raiders WR Davante Adams and Broncos CB Patrick Surtain, who is PFF’s highest-graded cornerback this season.
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Shadow matchups are when a defense assigns a particular cornerback to follow one specific wide receiver all over the field.
Of course, wide receivers often can overcome difficult one-on-one matchups thanks to good ole’ fashioned volume. It’s also rare that a cornerback follows a single receiver around the field for each and every route. This leads to situations where Jalen Ramsey “shuts down” Justin Jefferson in their direct coverage (3-25-0), but Jefferson’s full game line (8-116-0) reflects the reality that fantasy managers were still better off playing him.
What follows is a breakdown on:
- Which cornerbacks shadowed in Week 10
- Projected Week 11 shadow matchups
- Notes on why certain cornerbacks aren’t expected to shadow
Week 10 shadow results
The following eight defenses deployed at least one of their cornerbacks in shadow coverage last week. Note that receiving production refers to what the player achieved during the entire game, not just specifically in the referenced cornerbacks’ direct coverage:
- Rams CB Jalen Ramsey was deployed in shadow coverage for the first time all season in Week 10. His target: DeAndre Hopkins (10-98-0), who put up 8-71-0 of his impressive performance directly in Ramsey’s coverage.
- Panthers CB C.J. Henderson shadowed Falcons field-stretching WR Damiere Byrd (3-58-0) during last Thursday night’s rain-themed atrocity. Sorry, that’s not a fair way to describe the game; I just drafted too much Kyle Pitts back in August.
- Falcons CB Rashad Fenton is the latest Falcons corner to shadow a No. 2 receiver with starters A.J. Terrell (hamstring) and Casey Hayward (shoulder, IR) still sidelined. He wound up limiting Terrace Marshall (1-43-0) just fine, although the rainy weather and run-first gameplan from the Panthers certainly helped Fenton’s cause.
- Dolphins CB Xavien Howard predictably shadowed Amari Cooper (3-32-0). What wasn’t predicted was how well Howard wound up playing; Donovan Peoples-Jones (5-99-0) wound up receiving most of Jacoby Brissett’s attention during the Dolphins’ lopsided win.
- Giants CB Adoree’ Jackson and Fabian Moreau squared off against Brandin Cooks (4-37-0) and Nico Collins (5-49-1), respectively. Note that Cooks’ performance would have been quite a bit nicer had his 19-yard touchdown not been nullified by an offensive holding penalty.
- Raiders CB Rock Ya-Sin was tasked with shadowing Colts field-stretching WR Alec Pierce (0-0-0). This was the first time all season that Ya-Sin was assigned to one individual receiver throughout the game.
- Bills CB Dane Jackson did his best against Justin Jefferson (10-193-1), but at this point what mortal can hold up in man coverage against arguably the single-best wide receiver in the NFL today? Note that Jefferson was also about six inches away from adding a second touchdown to his total.
- Eagles CB Darius Slay shadowed Terry McLaurin (8-128-0) as expected. Credit to McLaurin for clearing the century mark during both of his shadow dates with Slay in 2022.
Projected Week 11 shadow matchups
Eagles WR A.J. Brown vs. Colts CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore didn’t wind up traveling with Davante Adams enough to register a shadow matchup in Week 10, although he certainly made his presence felt in yet another high-leverage end-of-game situation with a b-e-a-utiful last-second pass breakup.
Perhaps Jeff Saturday and company don’t want to stress Gilmore with an every-down shadow assignment, but either way his presence hasn’t exactly turned great receivers into ghosts in six dates this season:
- Terry McLaurin: 6-113-0
- Brandin Cooks: 7-82-0
- Marvin Jones: 3-33-0
- Courtland Sutton: 5-74-0
- Tyquan Thornton: 1-5-0
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: 0-0-0
The bigger potential problem for AJB is whether or not he’s 100% healthy after tweaking his ankle early in the Eagles’ Monday night loss to the Commanders. If active, Brown remains cemented as a top-10 option at the position regardless of the matchup, although it’d make sense if Gilmore makes him work a bit harder than usual for his production.
Commanders WR Terry McLaurin vs. Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr.
McLaurin has already beaten some of the league’s best corners in style, winning high-profile shadow matchups against Darius Slay (6-102-0, 8-128-0), Jaire Alexander (5-73-1), Stephon Gilmore (6-113-0), Jeffrey Okduah (4-75-0) and Kristian Fulton (5-76-0) through just 10 weeks.
Up next is another winnable spot against the 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 3 overall pick. Stingley Jr. has flashed throughout his rookie season; just realize he hasn’t exactly slowed down his admittingly tough competition in four shadow matchups:
- Cortland Sutton: 7-122-0 (11 targets)
- Mike Williams: 7-120-0 (11)
- Davante Adams: 8-95-0 (9)
- A.J. Brown (4-59-1)
Ultimately, Stingley grades out as PFF’s 108th-ranked corner in pure coverage among 132 qualified players this season. If anything, McLaurin should be upgraded ahead of this matchup — especially with Taylor Heinicke reportedly expected to stay under center.
Raiders WR Davante Adams vs. Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II
Surtain has blossomed into one of the league’s very best cornerbacks this season. In fact, PFF doesn’t have another cornerback graded higher than Surtain (87.2) in overall defensive grade among 132 qualified payers at the position.