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Two of the NFL's Elite
Tre'Davious White and Jalen Ramsey will lead their defenses on Sunday at Bills Stadium. What makes the standout defenders two of the NFL's elite cornerbacks?
By Maddy Glab Sep 24, 2020

Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White and Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey are the two highest paid players at their position in the history of the National Football League. The two players will share the same field on Sunday. They are cornerstones of their defenses and the two fit into a conversation where many don't belong.

Ramsey and White were both drafted in the first round—Ramsey the fifth pick of the 2015 draft, and White was the 27th pick of the 2017 draft. They each have several accolades including Pro Bowl appearances and first-team All-Pro shout outs.

Since entering the league in 2017, White is fourth in the NFL with 46 passes defended. Since 2016, Ramsey ties for fourth-best with 50 passes defended. White led the league with six interceptions last season and has 12 picks since being drafted. Ramsey's produced a career-high four interceptions in 2017 and has 10 interceptions in his career.

Being among the best in the league doesn't come easily. Earning those stripes and getting the nod from legends who came before requires far more than just naturally given talent.

That begs the question, what makes an elite corner in today's NFL?

"To be elite you've got to be able to cover," Bills assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "That's pretty important in our league and that's what those guys get paid to do. Be able to play man-to-man coverage. And then the smarts that come along with that. Usually those guys that are really elite, they're hard workers, very talented skill-wise. The part that gets left out is that they're really smart players.

"They understand situations whether it's 1st-and-10 in plus territory, 1st-and-10 in the minus territory. What happens on third down with this offense? What does this personnel group say about this offense? And that's what I've noticed about the guys that are elite at that high level they're like coaches on the field with a great deal of talent. That's what Tre'Davious has. I don't know Jalen as well, but I'm sure he has some of those same characteristics."

Frazier knows what it takes to be a talented corner as he's had his fair share of snaps from that position. The former Chicago Bear totaled 20 interceptions over five seasons from 1981 to 1985. Frazier led the Bears with six interceptions during their Super Bowl year in 1985.

White thinks if you can do it all, you deserve to be called one of the best.

"A guy that knows the whole defense, pretty much knowing the weakness of the defense and knowing where his help is going to be," White explained. "A guy that pretty much can play within the scheme and play off, can play press, can come in and tackle at the line. The total cornerback is the guy that can pretty much do it all.

"Play off, play press, play zone, play man, can come up and tackle, can communicate and also make the plays and catch the football when it comes to you. So when you become that type of guy, a guy that can take the ball away and also do those things, I think you'll be a big time player in this league."

White and Ramsey check those boxes, and their peers agree. The two are elite because of their athleticism, IQ, toughness, technique and addiction to hard work and film study.


Even though Stefon Diggs is new to the Bills, it didn't take long to realize his teammate, who he goes against every day in practice, is a certified lockdown threat. Based on what he sees on the practice field, Diggs thinks White is good for an interception a game.

"We jaw at each other every day in practice," Diggs shared. "I tell him to get his hands on one. Then on a game day, I'm not surprised when he's around the ball or gets his hands on the ball. I hold him to a high standard too, I say, 'You owe me like two picks at this point.'

"It's been two games, so trying to get a pick a game. He has been around the ball, he has been active. I would just say he's smart, he's instinctive, he knows what he's going to get. He's disciplined with his technique, and he has a knack for the ball. Finding corners that have a knack for the ball and are always around the ball, they're hard to find."

In his six years in the NFL, a talented receiver like Diggs has had some of the best line up opposite of him. Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Darius Slay and Jalen Ramsey are some of the names who have been tasked with shutting Diggs down.

The receiver will face Ramsey for a second go-round on Sunday. Josh Allen gets the chance to play against Ramsey for the second time too. Both walked away with a win the first time they played him, but they understand his skillset can't be taken lightly.

"I think 20 does a good job of reading the quarterback in his drop," Allen said. "His eyes are really in the backfield and he's able to tell if a quarterback is speeding up his drop to try and get quick, ready to jump a route. He's a very aggressive corner. He can play you man, he can play in zone. He's very good at route recognition, and it's going to be tough to win some matchups versus him. But the same time, it's not time to shy away from anybody or anything. We understand whatever the defense gives us we're going to take that."


The two have attracted attention not only from their peers, they've also turned the heads of national media members because of their expertise. While there's no argument about their talent level, White and Ramsey have different styles of play. According to some media one is more physical, and the other offers more technique. Regardless, premier corners deserve premier comparisons.

"I'd say that Jalen, he's just so physical and long" ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "His confidence is obviously a big deal, but physical and long. He wants to beat you up. Imagine kind of thinking Ty Law for the AFC East people. Ty Law used to just bury you at the line of scrimmage.

"And then Tre'Davious, I think he's just a more technically sound Asante Samuel. I would be scared to death to throw the ball his way when he's playing off coverage because he plays corner like a point guard almost. His ability to play with vision to the quarterback and just kind of have great feel for the football, it's very Asante Samuel-like to me. Premier corner, I would probably call him the best dollar-for-dollar corner in the NFL. Even though he got paid, I think he's the best dollar-for-dollar corner in the NFL."

When it comes to choosing between the two through two weeks of play, personality reigns for some.

"Give me Tre White," NFL Network's Kyle Brandt said. "First of all he's cheaper. Second of all I like his personality better. Jalen kind of runs hot, he can be a little bit cold-blooded sometimes. Tre is all about smiling, having fun. That moment where he picked up the other team's game plan on the field, is still one of the funniest moments of last year.

"I'll put it this way too, in Week 1 Jalen got smoked by the Cowboys in a huge moment. Michael Gallup torched him, he hammed up the pass interference and got the call because he's a known player and a star. Anybody else wouldn't have gotten it. After one week Tre has not gotten smoked, Jalen has. Better personality and cheaper, it's Tre White in a run away."


White and Ramsey have made a huge imprint on the NFL in the four and five years they've been in the league. Being talked about as one of the best corners in the league at a young age and having their stories shared nationally, imagine what that does for their hometowns. Even before their new contracts, the two have made it a point to give back to their communities that raised them.

"I was put in this position to spread the love and spread everything that I've been blessed with," White said after signing his new contract. "I want to help people out and better the resources that they have and to give them the resources to be successful.

"I plan to do that because, like I told you guys like a month ago, there are a lot of people in my family that are hurting so I'm planning on lightening that burden on them and we're going to do it together. With this contract, it's not about me. I've been good, off the first [contract], but this is about people that I love, and I genuinely care about."

White recently helped provide his former high school Glen Oaks in Shreveport, La. with uniforms, cleats and gloves.

In February, White returned to Glen Oaks where his No. 10 jersey from high school was retired. Glen Oaks principal Steven Grant shared what White's heart meant to the community that day.

"This is not about how many touchdowns he scored or about how many interceptions he had," Green Oaks principal Steven Grant said. "It's not about the time he ran in the 100 meters or his time on the basketball court. This is about a well-rounded young man who graduated as the valedictorian of his class who believed he could achieve these things, yet he comes back every chance he gets and asks Green Oaks, 'What can I do to help out?''

Ramsey recently pledged to give $1 million to a school near his hometown, Purpose Preparatory Academy, to help the academy with resources and programming. The Rams corner attended Brentwood Academy near Nashville, and his former coach loves to see him pouring back into his home.

"For him, he saw a need to help some inner city schools," Brentwood Academy athletic director and football coach Cody White said. "I think that's always good on those guys. They're blessed to have financial stability and for them to see that there's an opportunity to do things for somebody else, I think that something we'd love for our kids to do more and more often."

These two corners have made a tremendous impression on the NFL with their play, they've influenced the thoughts of national media who follow them and they've touched the hearts of those who look up to them.

Their undefeated teams will battle for a third win on Sunday, but no matter what team they're on the two are considered players that don't come around often. That is how you define elite.

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