Sometimes there’s no better play in the NFL than when a wide receiver goes up to catch a perfectly thrown ball – only for the cornerback to break it up.
As the league sees a growth in teams fielding star wide receiver duos, having two cornerbacks who can guard them is extremely imperative.
So, which cornerback duos are among the best in the NFL? These five are ones to watch for throughout the 2022 campaign:
J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr. – Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers went all-out this offseason to improve the defense, and former New England Patriot J.C. Jackson was one of those marquee additions. Jackson has improved in every campaign throughout his four years in the NFL, and his best was in 2021. He played in all 17 games, totaling eight interceptions – second in the league – and 23 passes defended, which was the most. Pair that with rising star Asante Samuel Jr., who is coming off a budding rookie campaign, and you have something special brewing. With all the offensive firepower joining the AFC West this year, Jackson and Samuel Jr. will need to bring it every week.
Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Moore II – Indianapolis Colts
Stephon Gilmore appeared in just eight games during his first and only season in Carolina, though he ended the year with a Pro Bowl nod. The 10-year veteran has made four Pro Bowls in a row as one of the more consistent corners in the game who can play both man-to-man and zone coverage. As he starts his first season with the Colts, he’ll get to line up alongside Kenny Moore II, one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the game. Moore, a fifth-year defensive back, earned his first Pro Bowl nod after registering 102 combined tackles (82 solo), 13 passes defended and four picks. The wide receiver group in the AFC South isn’t exactly the toughest, but good luck getting open against these two.
A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward Jr. – Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons may not be expected to contend for a playoff spot this year, but they’ll at least have two great cornerbacks to monitor. A.J. Terrell is emerging as one of, if not the, best corner in the game just two years into his NFL career. Terrell is fully capable of taking on the toughest receivers in the game with his straight-line speed and improved physicality, and his run-game defense is also top-tier as a defensive back. He’ll be joined this year by new addition Casey Hayward Jr., a 10-year veteran who brings great instincts to the field to compensate for his slower speed as he reaches his 30s. Hayward may not be the ball hawk he once was when he led the league in interceptions in 2016, but he’s still a perfect pairing alongside a young Terrell.
Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters – Baltimore Ravens
As the Ravens look to bounce back and reclaim the AFC North title, they’ll need their two corners to deliver. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters have been a strong pairing the last two seasons as they look to impress again in their third season together. Humphrey has two Pro Bowl nods in the last three seasons and has made a name for himself as one of the better ball-playing corners in the league while Peters’ anticipation and route-running has led to 31 interceptions in just six seasons. He’s found the endzone six times off those picks. Let’s see what 2022 has in store for them.
Xavien Howard, Byron Jones – Miami Dolphins
With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle lining up on the offensive side of the ball for the Dolphins, Xavien Howard and Byron Jones maintain the strength when they take the field on defense. Howard, who has spent all six seasons in Miami, continues to dominate receivers no matter what side of the field he lines up on. After logging 10 picks and 20 passes defended in 2020, he followed it up with five interceptions and 16 passes defended in 2021. Pair his strength and speed with Jones’ athleticism and anticipation and you have a solid duo.
Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes/Rasul Douglas – Green Bay Packers
Alexander, one of the best individual corners in the game, played just four games last year due to injury. However, rookie corner Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas stepped up and lessened the impact of Alexander’s absence as they helped Green Bay land the No. 1 seed in the NFC. There’s a strong trio brewing here, so it’ll be interesting to see which duo emerges from the pack in 2022.
Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill – Los Angeles Rams
Ramsey is arguably the best lockdown corner in the game, and though he’s paired with multiple No. 2 corners throughout his career, he and Troy Hill developed some strong chemistry in 2019 and 2020. Hill, however, left for the Cleveland Browns last season, but the Rams traded a 2023 fifth-round pick to bring him back over the offseason. Let’s see if these two can recapture their magic as the Rams hope to defend their recent Super Bowl win.