The best battles between wide receivers and cornerbacks come with the exchange of spirited words and, sometimes, on-field antics.
Think about the moment after the 2013 NFC Championship Game when cornerback Richard Sherman called wideout Michael Crabtree a "sorry receiver" during a postgame interview with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports.
We can also point to a heated rivalry between wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman, which included an on-field scuffle and ejections.
Wide receivers and cornerbacks have intense battles because they oftentimes line up across from each other and trash-talk one another in between snaps—and because of their positions they usually have the longest walks back to their huddles. The best cover men stand on an island and attempt to shut down the opposing team's best perimeter playmaker in fierce one-on-one matchups.
With the 2021 season officially underway, let's take a look at five must-see receiver-cornerback clashes between players in their prime years. This isn't a list of simply the best battles between Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. We've highlighted matchups that have a storyline between the two players that goes back to the previous season for an emphasis on active feuds.
Week 1: WR Darnell Mooney (Bears) vs. CB Jalen Ramsey (Rams)
Darnell Mooney isn't a household name, but Jalen Ramsey knows him well.
In Week 7 of last season, Mooney burned Ramsey on a double move to free himself for an easy touchdown, but Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles misfired on a deep throw. With an accurate pass, the wideout would've likely put six points on the scoreboard.
Even though Foles and Mooney didn't connect on the play, Bears fans let Ramsey know Mooney won on that snap. On Instagram, the two-time All-Pro addressed those who ridiculed him.
"Can't wait till week 1 so all these lame ass Bears fans can stfu about they number 2 wr."
We'll likely see Ramsey against wide receiver Allen Robinson II for a good portion of Sunday's game, but the Rams cover man clearly has Mooney on his mind.
When asked about Ramsey's Instagram post during a press conference in June, Mooney chose not to pile on to the drama.
"There's a lot of defensive players that are on our schedule," Mooney said. "There's a lot of strong defensive backs. It's going to be a good year, a lot of fun this year. I'm looking forward to playing."
As a fifth-round pick out of Tulane, Mooney heads into his second season after an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 61 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns. Ramsey may do all the trash-talking in this matchup, but if the Bears wideout gets the best of him and scores, he might have a lot to say in response.
Weeks 8 and 15: WR Michael Thomas (Saints) vs. CB Carlton Davis III (Buccaneers)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers eliminated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round, but wideout Michael Thomas remained locked into the playoff action.
In the NFC Championship Game between Tampa Bay and the Green Bay Packers, wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling beat Carlton Davis III for a 50-yard touchdown reception.
During the matchup, Thomas provided some Twitter commentary. He might have struck a nerve with one particular observation.
"Keep throwing it over his head. He need help," Thomas tweeted.
The Buccaneers won the game, and Davis had time to fire back at Thomas on Twitter.
"@Cantguardmike I bodied you 3 games in a row lil dude in cover 1 goofball ! And ima dawg yo lil ass again next year so you better work on them routes !," Davis tweeted.
Over the past three matchups between the Buccaneers and Saints, Thomas caught eight passes for just 68 yards and failed to record a reception in the last outing. Thomas battled an ankle injury throughout the 2020 campaign, but Davis didn't show any sympathy while he shamed the Saints receiver on social media.
Thomas underwent offseason ankle surgery, and the Saints placed him on the physically unable to perform list, which means he'll miss at least six outings. Yet the two-time All-Pro wideout could return to the field by the time New Orleans hosts Tampa Bay in Week 8 on Halloween. If not, we could see these two face off in Week 15.
Davis seems confident, but he'll have his hands full if Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and Thomas establish a rapport on deep throws.