NFL Week 2 WR/CB Matchups: Will Marshon Lattimore Rough Up Henry Ruggs?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Marshon Lattimore
Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football.
In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus to project NFL Week 2 WR/CB matchups, especially shadow situations.
For more, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.
As we get more clarity during the week on the injury status of receivers and corners, I will update my WR/CB projections.
Let’s start with this week’s featured matchup and then run through all the potential shadow matchups and most notable upgrades and downgrades.
UPDATE (Fri. 9/18): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and situations to note.
Wide Receivers: OUT
- Saints WR Michael Thomas (ankle) is projected OUT.
- Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (concussion, doubtful) is projected OUT.
- Lions WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring) is OUT.
- Titans WR A.J. Brown (knee) is OUT.
- Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (hamstring) is projected OUT.
- Jets WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring) is OUT.
- Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) is OUT.
- Seahawks WR Phillip Dorsett (foot) is tentatively projected OUT.
- Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III (knee) is tentatively projected OUT.
Wide Receivers: IN
- Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (hamstring) is projected IN.
- 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) is projected IN.
- Giants WR Golden Tate (hamstring) is tentatively projected IN.
- Broncos WRs Courtland Sutton (shoulder) and K.J. Hamler (hamstring) are tentatively projected IN.
- 49ers CB Richard Sherman (calf, IR) is OUT.
- Lions CBs Justin Coleman (hamstring, IR) & Desmond Trufant (hamstring) are OUT
- Footballers CB Kendall Fuller (knee) is tentatively projected OUT.
- Chiefs CB Charvarius Ward (hand) is OUT.
- Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler (rib) is OUT.
- Lions CBs Jeff Okudah (hamstring) & Darryl Roberts (calf) are projected IN.
- Panthers CB Donte Jackson (ankle) is projected IN.
- Saints CB P.J. Williams (hamstring) is projected IN.
- Dolphins CB Xavien Howard (knee) is projected IN.
WR/CB Matchup of the Week
Raiders WRs Henry Ruggs III & Bryan Edwards vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
UPDATE (Fri. 9/18): Ruggs (knee) is tentatively projected to be OUT.
Rookie WR Snap Counts | Week 1
DAL CeeDee Lamb – 57
DET Quintez Cephus – 57
LV Bryan Edwards – 46
LV Henry Ruggs – 41
BUF Gabriel Davis – 40
PHI Jalen Reagor – 40
IND Michael Pittman – 37
LAR Van Jefferson – 33
MIN Justin Jefferson – 33
JAX Laviska Shenault Jr. – 29
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 14, 2020
Second-year slot receiver Hunter Renfrow technically has seniority — plus, he’s just really old — but he played only 30 snaps against the Panthers. Ruggs and Edwards are already the top wide receivers for the Raiders.
Last week, I liked the over on Ruggs’ receiving yardage prop so much that I bet it twice in The Action Network App.
Henry Ruggs hits the Over (40.5) with 55 yards for the game
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 13, 2020
He hit the over in the first quarter on a moderately deep 45-yard catch-and-run reception that he took down to the one-yard line. Overall, Ruggs had a strong NFL debut, going 3-55-0 receiving on five targets and adding 11 yards on two carries.
Edwards had a less auspicious game, amassing just nine yards on one target — but he led all Vegas wide receivers in snaps played. He’s someone the Raiders have in their plans.
And both of them are likely to match up with Marshon Lattimore on Monday Night Football in Week 2.
Entering Week 1, I thought that Lattimore would shadow Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who then tweaked his hamstring in practice. Although Evans ended up playing against the Saints, he was little more than a decoy for much of the game.
As a result, the Saints had Lattimore shadow wide receiver Chris Godwin when he was on the perimeter, and then whenever Godwin lined up in the slot, Lattimore defended Evans.
The Saints could use Lattimore similarly against the Raiders.
In Week 1, Ruggs played 52.4% of his snaps in the slot; Edwards, 93.6% on the perimeter.
This week, when Ruggs is on the perimeter he will likely be shadowed by Lattimore — and that’s the primary matchup to watch. As fast as Ruggs is (4.27-second 40-yard dash), Lattimore has the speed to keep up (4.36-second 40 time) — not to mention three-plus years of NFL experience.
As for Edwards, he will face Lattimore when Ruggs is in the slot. Needless to say, Week 2 probably won’t be his time to break out.
For his career, Lattimore has held opposing receivers to a catch rate of just 58.1%.
Action: Medium downgrade for Ruggs & Edwards
Potential Week 2 Shadow Matchups
Here are the other shadow matchups I’m projecting.
|CAR – D.J. Moore||TB – Carlton Davis|
|DET – Marvin Jones||GB – Jaire Alexander|
|LAR – Robert Woods||PHI – Darius Slay|
|MIA – Preston Williams||BUF – Tre’Davious White|
|LV – Henry Ruggs||NO – Marshon Lattimore|
|PHI – Desean Jackson||LAR – Jalen Ramsey|
|PIT – Diontae Johnson||DEN – A.J. Bouye|
|SEA – D.K. Metcalf||NE – Stephon Gilmore|
|SEA – Tyler Lockett||NE – Jonathan Jones|
|SEA – David Moore||NE – J.C. Jackson|
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Dolphins WR Preston Williams vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White: Wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) dealt with a lingering soft-tissue injury in training camp, and then in Week 1 he suffered an in-game aggravation and exited early. In total, he played just 23 snaps against the Patriots.
I doubt he will play in Week 2, which means that Williams will function as the clear No. 1 receiver for the Dolphins.
Enter White, a 2019 All-Pro perimeter defender. White wasn’t used in shadow coverage last week — but he was also playing the receiver-deficient Jets: It’s not good sportsmanship to bring a flamethrower to a water-balloon fight.
The Bills could certainly anchor White at left corner once again, but I think they’ll have him tail Williams. In Week 11 last year, White defended Parker on 68.8% of his routes.
Williams (ACL) is coming back from a significant season-ending knee injury, but he looked more or less like himself in Week 1. He led the Dolphins with seven targets, and at the time of his injury in Week 9 last year, Williams was actually the No. 1 receiver for the Dolphins, not Parker.
- Preston Williams (Weeks 1-9): 32-428-3 receiving, 60 targets
- DeVante Parker (Weeks 1-9): 28-400-4, 52 targets
But the matchup is tough.
White has held opposing receivers to just 7.1 yards per target on a 54.3% catch rate since entering the league three years ago.
Last year, White didn’t allow a touchdown in his coverage.
Action: Medium downgrade for Williams
Lions WR Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander: Last year, the Packers intermittently used their corners in shadow coverage, and they resumed the practice in Week 1.
Against the divisional rival Vikings, the Packers had Alexander man up wide receiver Adam Thielen, and although his final stat line of 6-110-2 receiving on eight targets looks great, the reality is that Thielen struggled for most of the game.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when the Packers had a commanding 29-10 lead, that Thielen scored his first touchdown — and that wasn’t even against Alexander.
The Packers could very well use Alexander in shadow coverage against the Lions, who were without No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) in Week 1 and I expect will be without him in Week 2.
In his absence, Jones served as the No. 1 option against the Bears, leading all Lions wide receivers with 71 snaps and garnering eight targets. He’s a clear candidate for shadow coverage without Golladay on the field.
It just so happens that last year when the Packers hosted the Lions in Week 6, they used Alexander on Jones (while teammate Kevin King faced Golladay) — and Jones had no receptions on the 54.5% of his routes against Alexander. For the game, Jones was 2-17-0 receiving on five targets.
In his two NFL seasons, Alexander has been a solidly above-average pass defender with 73.0 and 75.8 PFF coverage grades — and in his third-year he might be poised to join the upper echelon of corners.
Action: Small downgrade for Jones
Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey: Because of his size (6-foot-1, 208 pounds), Ramsey isn’t talked about as the kind of corner who can stick with anybody. He’s thought of as more of a defender against the big-bodied alpha types.
And those are primarily the guys he shadowed in 2019.
- DeAndre Hopkins (Week 2): 4-27-0 on seven targets, 81.8% of routes
- Julio Jones (Week 7): 4-69-0 on seven targets, 73.3% of routes
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (Week 10): 3-44-0 on three targets, 79.1% of routes
- Allen Robinson II (Week 11): 0-0-0 on two targets, 57.1% of routes
- D.K. Metcalf (Week 14): 5-69-0 on five targets, 97.0% of routes
- Amari Cooper (Week 15): 0-0-0 on zero targets, 58.3% of routes
And in Week 1, Ramsey shadowed Cooper once again. He does tend to tail big receivers.
But in 2018 he also matched up against a number of receivers who all weigh less than 200 pounds.
- Odell Beckham Jr. (Week 1): 5-57-0 on seven targets, 74.4% of routes
- Tyreek Hill (Week 5): 2-46-0 on four targets, 51.2% of routes
- T.Y. Hilton (Week 10): 1-35-0 on three targets, 55.6% of routes
- Antonio Brown (Week 11): 4-110-1 on nine targets, 64.0% of routes
- T.Y. Hilton (Week 13): 3-34-0 on seven targets, 77.8% of routes
For the Eagles, No. 1 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (foot) is unlikely to play after sitting out Week 1, so that leaves Jackson as the team’s primary perimeter receiver.
Jackson had a respectable seven targets last week, but he mysteriously was off the field for long stretches …
For the record I wasn’t hurt or didn’t get hurt. I’m good.
— Desean Jackson (@DeSeanJackson10) September 14, 2020
… and he pulled in just two receptions for 46 yards. He has the talent to turn any touch into a touchdown, but Jackson’s weekly usage might be hard to predict.
We don’t know how new Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley will deploy Ramsey against smaller No. 1 receivers — but even if he doesn’t shadow Jackson, they still likely to face off on the perimeter for plenty of snaps.
Ramsey wasn’t great in Week 1, but as the top corner he led the defensive effort that held Cooper to just 81 yards on 14 targets, and he had the “play” of the game in the final minute by drawing an offensive pass-interference penalty on wide receiver Michael Gallup.
When Jackson and Ramsey match up, the cornerback will have the edge.
Action: Medium downgrade for Jackson
Rams WR Robert Woods vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay: For a half-decade span in Detroit, Slay was one of the league’s most reliable cover men.
- 2018: 78.2 PFF coverage grade, 6.2 yards per target
- 2017: 80.0 PFF coverage grade, 6.8 yards per target
- 2016: 80.2 PFF coverage grade, 6.8 yards per target
- 2015: 77.0 PFF coverage grade, 8.5 yards per target
- 2014: 70.0 PFF coverage grade, 7.0 yards per target
Slay was especially strong in 2016-18, a period highlighted by a 2017 All-Pro campaign in which he had league-high marks with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended.
With the Lions, he regularly faced opposing No. 1 receivers and was one of the few shadow defenders capable of tailing his man from the perimeter to the slot.
But in 2019 Slay had a remarkably bad year with a 56.9 PFF coverage grade and 8.2 yards per target. Why? Maybe the problem was HC Matt Patricia’s defense. Maybe the problem was that Slay, at 28 years old, was no longer the athlete he was as a younger player.
Either way, the Lions traded him to the Eagles this offseason for third- and fifth-round picks, and in Week 1 against Washington, DC Jim Schwartz used him in shadow coverage against emerging second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who had a good game with 5-61-0 receiving on seven targets — but not a great game.
Slay might be returning to form.
If the Eagles use him in shadow coverage this week, he’s almost certain to defend Woods, who did his thing on Sunday Night Football, turning eight targets into 6-105-0 receiving and adding 14 yards on the ground.
When the Lions hosted the Rams in Week 13 of 2018, Slay was the primary defender against Woods, who was 5-67-1 receiving on eight targets and 2-11-0 rushing.
Slay won’t be shut down Woods, but he’s probably still good enough to slow him a little.
Action: Small downgrade for Woods
Steelers WR Diontae Johnson vs. Broncos CB A.J. Bouye: As of writing, we’re yet to see the Steelers and Broncos play in the two Monday Night Football games, so we have only partial knowledge of how they’re likely to use their wide receivers and corners in Week 2.
But based on the past, the Broncos could use Bouye to shadow Johnson.
Although Johnson is small (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) and not the prototypical perimeter receiver, he led all rookies last year with 59 receptions and has gotten hype as a potential second-season breakout candidate.
Last year, HC Vic Fangio used then-No. 1 cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in shadow coverage on a regular basis against top opposing receivers, including those similar to Johnson in size and playing style: T.Y. Hilton (Week 8), Odell Beckham Jr. (Week 9), Stefon Diggs (Week 11) and John Brown (Week 12).
Now that Bouye is the new No. 1 pass defender, he’s in line for shadow duties.
His PFF coverage grade has dropped in each of the past three seasons — from a near-elite career-high 89.9 in 2016, down to 84.7, 79.3 and 55.4 in successive seasons since then. His best days are behind him.
Whether he shadows Johnson or they simply face off whenever they happen to line up on the same side of the field, Bouye will likely be at a disadvantage against the agile up-and-coming receiver.
Action: Small upgrade for Johnson
UPDATE (Tue., Sep. 15): On MNF, Bouye played just 28 snaps. He will not be shadowing (or maybe even playing) in Week 2.
Panthers WR D.J. Moore vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis: Early in the 2019 season when the Bucs were still starting M.J. Stewart and Vernon Hargreaves III alongside Davis, the coverage unit was an absolute mess.
But in the second half of the year, rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean respectively replaced Stewart and Hargreaves in the slot and on the perimeter. And as a result, the team’s pass unit gradually tightened up, and the Bucs ended the year ranked No. 12 with a -0.3% pass-defense DVOA.
In Weeks 12, 16 and 17, the Bucs used Davis in shadow coverage — and he didn’t embarrass himself.
- Julio Jones (Week 12): 4-58-0 receiving, six targets
- DeAndre Hopkins (Week 16): 4-19-0 receiving, seven targets
- Julio Jones (Week 17): 4-58-0 receiving, six targets
And then last week against the Saints, he followed Michael Thomas across the formation, and Thomas had his worst game in years, putting up just 17 yards on five targets.
It’s not certain that Davis will shadow Moore this week, and I’m loath to say that Davis is the reason Thomas disappointed in Week 1, but Davis is ascending: He allowed seven touchdowns last year, and he only has one interception in his career, but he also held receivers to 6.3 yards per target in 2019. And he has the size (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) to challenge big-bodied No. 1 wideouts.
Moore had just a 4-54-0 receiving line last week, but he did have a team-high nine targets, and last year he established himself as a true No. 1 receiver with 1,175 yards receiving in a Mike Evans-esque 22-year-old second season.
This is yet another tough matchup for Davis. I’m not bumping up his cornerback grade as of yet, but if more receivers fail to produce against him, I’ll be forced to do it.
Action: No change for Moore
Sunday Night Football
Seahawks WRs D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett & David Moore vs. Patriots CBs Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones & J.C. Jackson: What. A. Matchup.
In Week 1, the Seahawks finally let quarterback Russell Wilson cook. He was an unfathomable 31-of-35 passing for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
Metcalf was 4-95-1 receiving on eight targets. Lockett was 8-92-0 on eight targets. And Moore — playing in place of the injured Phillip Dorsett (foot) — was an efficient 3-28-0 on three targets.
As for the Patriots and their league-leading -33.8% pass-defense DVOA, it was business as usual. They held the Dolphins to a scoreless 191 yards passing and captured three interceptions from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, Gilmore has held receivers to a 50% catch rate and 6.4 yards per target in his three-plus years with the Patriots. He’s as tough of a matchup as there is for Metcalf.
In the slot, Jones has been one of the league’s best middle-of-the-field defenders over the past few years, holding receivers to 7.6 yards per target since his second season. Lockett will get his receptions — he has a 78.2% catch rate since 2018 — but he probably won’t be as efficient at turning his catches into yards.
As for Moore, he’s a backup going against a defender in Jackson who has held receivers to just 6.0 yards per target and a 49.6% catch rate since entering the league in 2018.
Action: Large downgrades for Metcalf & Lockett, medium downgrade for Moore
Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades
Packers WR Allen Lazard vs. Lions CB Justin Coleman: Lazard is an every-down player with his 68 snaps in Week 1, and he produced with 4-63-1 receiving and 1-19-0 rushing. An exploitable slot defender, Coleman had top-five marks last year with 112 targets, 869 yards receiving and eight touchdowns allowed.
Action: Large upgrade for Lazard
Ravens WR Marquise Brown vs. Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves III: Hollywood is coming off an easy 5-101-0 receiving performance on six targets.
Hargreaves is one of the league’s most generous cornerbacks, allowing 9.1 yards per target for his career.
Action: Large upgrade for Brown
Saints WR Tre’Quan Smith vs. Raiders CB Lamarcus Joyner: Smith had just one target last week, but he played 44 snaps and is a locked-in member of three-wide sets, usually in the slot. A miscast safety-turned-slot defender, Joyner had a career-worst 44.4 PFF coverage grade last year and allowed a gaping 73.9% catch rate.
Action: Large upgrade for Smith
Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades
Bengals A.J. Green vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward: Green easily led the Bengals in his Week 1 return to action with nine targets, but he was just 5-51-0 receiving. For his career, Ward has held receivers to a 50.7% catch rate and just 5.9 yards per target.
Action: Medium downgrade for Green
Broncos WRs Jerry Jeudy, DaeSean Hamilton & Tim Patrick vs. Steelers CBs Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton & Joe Haden: The Broncos might be without starting wide receivers Courtland Sutton (shoulder) and K.J. Hamler (hamstring). Last year the Steelers were No. 3 with a -16.5% pass-defense DVOA, and they have returned all five of their secondary starters.
Action: Medium downgrades for Jeudy, Hamilton & Patrick
Texans WRs Will Fuller & Brandin Cooks vs. Ravens CBs Marlon Humphrey & Marcus Peters: I like the Texans to cover in Week 2, and Fuller had a triumphantly satisfying 8-112-0 receiving performance on 10 targets in the season opener …
… but Fuller is inconsistent, and Cooks (quad) has a lingering muscle injury. The Ravens have the No. 1 secondary in the league, and it’s primarily because of their cornerback play.
Action: Large downgrades for Fuller & Cooks
Chiefs WRs Tyreek Hill & Sammy Watkins vs. Chargers CBs Chris Harris Jr. & Casey Hayward Jr.: I also like the Chiefs to cover, but Hill and Watkins could see fewer targets than usual if HC Andy Reid sticks with the run-leaning approach from Week 1. PFF has Harris and Hayward both as top-six corners, and the Chargers just held the Bengals to 193 passing yards (albeit with a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut).
Action: Medium downgrade for Hill, large downgrade for Watkins
NFL Week 2 WR/CB Matrix
I take a cautious approach to injured players who I expect to be questionable or out. If by the weekend it seems likely that they will play, I will include them in my updates.
Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED
WR Exp = Wide Receiver Expectation: I rank from 3 to -3 how much I think we should adjust expectations for wide receivers based on matchups. 3: Large upgrade. 2: Medium upgrade. 1: Small upgrade. 0: No change. -1: Small downgrade. -2: Medium downgrade. -3: Large downgrade.
Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.
Matthew Freedman is 610-482-23 (55.9%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
He’s the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Rosemount, Minnesota, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.