Projecting 8 Top WR-DB Matchups of 2023 NFL Season

As the significance of having an elite receiver on your roster has grown, the need for elite defensive backs has grown with it. As a result, stars at wide receiver and defensive back have blossomed in the NFL, battling each other for space, yards and wins.

Here are eight of the best potential WR-DB matchups of the 2023 NFL season:

8 Top WR-DB Matchups

Ja’Marr Chase vs. Tariq Woolen

Week 6 Seahawks at Bengals

In Week 6, Ja’Marr Chase will have his hands full with Tariq Woolen. The 24-year-old cornerback was special all last season as a rookie while being overshadowed by guys like Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner. But Woolen also had a season to remember, with 16 passes defended, six interceptions and a Pro Bowl selection. He was the standout for last year’s Seattle Seahawks defense — a bright spot they could build around and support.

Unfortunately for Seattle, he’ll be going up against one of the best in the business when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chase has done it against almost everyone, but this is a matchup we have yet to see.

Chase is a physical player. He can get off the line of scrimmage, make contested catches and get down the field. But Woolen is a tall, long corner (6-foot-4) who likes to be physical at the line of scrimmage.

When you are a receiver in matchups like this, you do not want your quarterback to shy away from that great defender. You want to attack them to show that your skillset is on par with or superior to theirs. – Jennings

Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle vs.

Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore

Week 16 Cowboys at Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have the league’s best wide receiver duo in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. They’re going up against the Dallas Cowboys cornerback duo of Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore on Christmas Eve.

Gilmore is getting to that point where age is catching up slightly. He was still phenomenal with the Indianapolis Colts this past season, but he will have to suck it up for this matchup against the Dolphins. Mike McDaniel’s scheme is unreal with what they do and how they get to you offensively.

How will Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn handle it? He coached with McDaniel in Atlanta and has played Kyle Shanahan, McDaniels’ mentor, plenty of times.

So, how will he defend Hill and Waddle? What does he do with his cornerbacks? Because with that Dolphins scheme, it’s almost impossible to stop if they’re flowing. – Vanek

Justin Jefferson vs. Patrick Surtain II

Week 11 Vikings at Broncos

Reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson will be going up against Patrick Surtain II, a young corner going into his third year with a stellar resume. He gets it done. You don’t see a lot of balls thrown his way because of how special he is. He’s already one of the two best cornerbacks in the NFL, but when you talk about the likes of Jefferson, you’ll have your hands full. I don’t care who the cornerback is.

Jefferson led the league in yards as a big play waiting to happen. He can line up anywhere, and he can get off the line. He has shown some struggles if a defender can get his hands on him at the line of scrimmage. However, his work ethic, his ability to be savvy, and his route-running skills will help him find a way to make plays.

Surtain II is one of the best in the NFL at pass breakups and defending the ball while it’s in the air. One of the next steps in his development is understanding schemes as opponents come to the line of scrimmage. And once the route stems progress, how he dissects the concept immediately. That’ll be his next step. But he’s a phenomenal corner, and this is a matchup we’re definitely going to see head-to-head at some point in Week 11 — and you better have your popcorn ready. – Jennings

Bengals WR Trio vs. Browns DB Trio

Week 1 Bengals at Browns | Week 18 Browns at Bengals

This is an interesting matchup for the Bengals because they are 1-3 against the Cleveland Browns in the past two years.

On top of that, last year on the Pivot Podcast, Chase mentioned he doesn’t think Denzel Ward is elite. So how Ward will do, especially in a Jim Schwartz defense that will come at you? Ward is not going to get that safety help that former defensive coordinator Joe Woods gave him.

How will Ward, Greg Newsome and Martin Emerson match up with this trio of Bengals wide receivers — Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd?

This will be the first time Joe Burrow gets single-high coverage against the Browns. Obviously, they have to protect him and handle Myles Garrett. But when the ball is snapped, how physical are these guys going to be at the line of scrimmage? How many big plays will it cause with Chase getting that man-to-man coverage he excels against?

Ward has talked about the interception he had against them two years ago when he was covering Chase and jumped his route. So it’s a matchup where the trash talk is there. These teams are divisional rivals that have been going at it the past two years, and, for whatever reason, the Browns have had the Bengals’ number. – Vanek

Sauce Gardner New York Jets

Davante Adams vs. Sauce Gardner

Week 10 Jets at Raiders

I don’t care which teams are playing in Week 10 or who you’re a fan of, you’re going to want to see how this goes down.

Aaron Rodgers will be on the Jets sideline telling Sauce, “Davante likes to do this, he likes to do that.” And Davante Adams knows there might be a little bit of inside information there, so he will want to be on his P’s and Q’s against Sauce.

For the 22-year-old cornerback, it feels as if there isn’t an accolade he hasn’t already accomplished going into his second year. There might not be a defensive player in football we expect more from. Even though he was Defensive Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-Pro and led the league in passes defended, we expect Sauce to be even better in Year 2.

He’s going up against Adams, who can make it happen with just about anybody at quarterback. That’s his mindset. He’s said it’s not about the quarterback. Yes, he’s had Rodgers. Yes, he had his best friend, Derek Carr. Now he’s going to have the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the football.

But nothing changes in the mind of Adams, who probably thinks he can get open inside a phone booth. He’s trying to erase you from the picture. Adams will have his hands full with Sauce, and Sauce will have his hands full with Adams. I can’t wait. – Jennings

DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown vs.

Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard

Week 7 Dolphins at Eagles

This matchup with Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio going up against the Eagles’ offense is going to be one that I am stoked to see. Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard have shown they can go to the slot if you try to put DeVonta Smith or A.J. Brown there.

The Philadelphia Eagles also have kept them out wide because they look at it as you either bring that safety down to stop our run or you keep that safety high to stop the plays over the top.

Fangio should let Ramsey and Howard hold their own against these two receivers. This duo is the second-best or third-best in the league. They’re definitely in the top three, and what they did last year was phenomenal. I can only see them getting better. Two big body corners against A.J. Brown are something that is exciting to think about. – Vanek

AJ Brown Philadelphia Eagles

A.J. Brown vs. Emmanuel Forbes

Week 4 Commanders at Eagles | Week 8 Eagles at Commanders

I like what Emmanuel Forbes did in college, however, I haven’t seen anybody guard Brown who is more physical than him. So when you bring in a guy who weighs 160 pounds against Brown, who embraces physicality, it’ll be interesting.

Don’t count Forbes out because his heart is huge and his confidence is high, but we’ve seen Brown do it Sunday after Sunday. And with a healthy Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia is going to put the ball in the air, and they’re going to make a lot of defenses feel overwhelmed, including Miami’s duo of Ramsey and Howard.

Plus, attacking a player because of his weight doesn’t sit exactly right with me. Look at DeVonta Smith. Look at Steph Curry. I don’t think anybody is saying that they’re too small to play the position because they went out and they performed at a high level. That is what you’re going to have to do if you’re Forbes and I hope he does. I want to see a guy who weighs 160 pounds shut down Brown. – Jennings

Stefon Diggs vs. Trevon Diggs

Week 15 Cowboys at Bills

Forget Cowboys vs. Bills. Forget wide receiver vs. defensive back. This is brother on brother. This is bragging rights. This is, “I know you, you know me. Let’s see who’s the best at the highest level.”

They’re going embrace it. They’re going to have fun with it. But at the end of the day, these are two of the most fierce competitors we will see on the football field. They’re going to want to get after one another and win.

Stefon will want to match up against his brother and score a touchdown.

For Trevon, as the younger sibling, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to upstage your big brother. – Jennings

Greg Jennings is a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Packers, Vikings and Dolphins. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Jennings was a member of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship team and is inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter @GregJennings.

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