If Jalen Ramsey is not already the best cornerback in the NFL, he is on the path to being that player. In just his second season Ramsey was named to the All-Pro team. So when Ramsey matches up with Antonio Brown it will likely be two of the best at their positions dealing with each other. A heavyweight bout. The two had already met each other once this year. Who won in round one?
What is interesting to note about the Jaguars and how they handled Antonio Brown in the first game is the different looks that they threw at him. With Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the two combine to be the top corner duo in the league. It can be argued Ramsey is better, but the team typically lines them up on their respective side and let them play. Ramsey is usually on the left, and Bouye on the right.
Against the Steelers, they did not change off of that philosophy much but did mix a variety of looks throughout the game to mess with Roethlisberger.
Early in the game, Brown aligned on the right side and Ramsey followed him over there. Was that the plan for the day?
A few plays later, Roethlisberger was ready to find out. With just a tight end on the right side, leaving Ramsey as the only cornerback, he motioned Brown across to see if Ramsey would follow. He did not. Still, you can see Barry Church deep, and the linebacker shifting with Brown as well.
From there, they played sides with their cornerbacks. Brown ran two routes from the slot. One Ramsey followed him there, the other Aaron Colvin took him.
Later, the team lined Ramsey up on the right side for a snap but to take on Martavis Bryant. They mixed zone and man well and showed different looks like the play below. You can see that in both situations, the safety always gives Ramsey more respect and shades to Bouye. When Brown is on Ramsey he is closer to the middle, and he shifts heavy to Brown against Bouye.
That did not stop Antonio Brown going deep, though. In fact, on the first pass attempt of the game, the Steelers sent a message to Ramsey and attacked him deep.
Roethlisberger connected to Brown on a 49-yard deep pass. Watch how meticulous Brown is in his ability to blow by Ramsey. He kind of becomes a NASCAR driver and twice uses contact with Ramsey to propel himself free. It is much too clean and meticulous to be called a penalty but is almost unstoppable. First, Ramsey is crowding him inside, Brown uses his strength to push off of Ramsey’s momentum when they make contact and get space. Brown is tracking the ball and knows that the freak athlete Ramsey is coming. While tracking the ball, he feels Ramsey, and once again uses Ramsey’s momentum to spring him forward and make a catch.
Watch it in real time. He does it so clean. The ref is staring him down and while he technically pushes off twice, there is nothing he can even do about it.
And if Jaguars want to complain that what he is doing is unfair, they do not know football. That is the beauty of it. Brown masters the finer things. Bouye, a technician, also knows when it is a good time to put his hands on Antonio Brown when Browns beats him inside to the middle of the field. It is a part of the game neither are an issue.
What is an issue, is Antonio Brown. Brown went deep against Ramsey again later in the game and used the same technique to get space. Unfortunately, he was just missed deep and out of bounds.
Still, it was clear that Brown has earned Ramsey’s respect. Ramsey played off ball most of the rest of the game, and when he did play up close, he was keeping his guard up for the deep ball. Brown was able to once again go into his bag and pull off a comeback route for a completion down the field. Watch how quick and fluidly he goes from running down the field to slowing down as he turns around to create separation.
Again on the play below, Brown takes the respect given to find space on the inside.
Roethlisberger is looking right to get the linebacker in front of Brown to break that way. His plan is to look him off and hit Brown in that space to once again burn Ramsey.
However, the time that took was too much time for Calais Campbell. Sometimes the great coverage of Ramsey helps Campbell get sacks. But this one is Campbell helping Ramsey.
The play below resulted in an interception but was really the only one of Ben Roethlisberger‘s five interceptions that were solely on him. Ramsey is giving Brown his respect. Brown shows that he is going deep long enough to fade Ramsey back and break inside. However, a bad pass gives Ramsey the ability to make the play on the ball, and earn the interception.
Below, Ramsey is playing the deep half in zone. Telvin Smith, who is underneath gets taken out of the play by following Ben Roethlisberger and not feeling Brown. Smith is running towards no one and Ramsey is stuck trying to break in on Brown.
The catch is no fault to Ramsey. However, the aftermath could have been the knock out blow in this heavy weight fight. Brown bounces off of Ramsey and continues to dart past other defenders and picks up about eight extra yards. Balance, strength and the vision to get free all come to play here.
And to cap it all off, the garbage time win. Brown gets deep for 21 yards. This is not even a victory for Brown other than Ramsey having a mental lapse. He is in zone, and his responsibility is the deep sideline. So in theory, sticking to the sideline is the play. However, Brown is breaking in, and James Connor, the only other threat on that side of the field is about 20 yards away.
You can see after the play both Telvin Smith and Barry Church are disappointed in Ramsey for not following Brown and allowing the easy completion.
Brown also added in four catches for 40 yards on quick slants, and screens with respect given from Ramsey. Aside from that, this was every relevant snap that Ramsey and Brown took apart in. There were no situations where Roethlisberger looked to Brown and looked away because he was beaten. Yes, there could have and likely were situations where Roethlisberger saw Ramsey on Brown before the snap and immediately knew his read was the other way. The Steelers were bashed for not running the ball, but they were trying to get the ball out quick to absolve the pressure.
Brown also went to battle with A.J. Bouye for good portions, saw a plethora of defenders in his direction. However, when it was Ramsey and Brown, mono e mono, the best receiver in the NFL won decisively.
Brown is currently coming back from a calf injury, and while the reports have been nothing but the best possible news, it could have an impact on round two. Still, if the results remain the same, and Brown is completely healthy, the results should go Brown’s way and should go the Steelers way on the scoreboard.