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Prior to the Washington Football Team's Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Terry McLaurin was asked the question: who are the toughest cornerbacks he's faced in his young career?
McLaurin answered quickly with three names: the Philadelphia Eagles' Darius Slay, Green Bay Packers' Jaire Alexander and Buffalo Bills' Tre'Davious White.
McLaurin squared off against White during his rookie season at Highmark Stadium. Sunday's game against the Bills will be Round 2, and McLaurin knows that he's in for a fight.
"His press man technique is very patient," McLaurin said Tuesday. "He does a really good job of cutting off the receiver when they get into their route. He's strong when he's in press coverage with his jam, and he can run with pretty much any receiver."
In terms of the more recognizable corners in the league, there aren't many better than White. The Bills' first-round pick in 2017 has made the Pro Bowl over the past two seasons and was a First Team All-Pro in 2020. His resume includes leading the league with six interceptions in 2019 and making the Pro Football Writers' Association All-Rookie team.
That's nothing to sneeze at, but McLaurin had already built up a strong reputation by the time Washington traveled to Orchard Park, New York. in 2019. He burst onto the scene with 125 yards in his NFL debut against the Eagles and nabbed five touchdowns prior to the Week 9 matchup with White.
The results: McLaurin came away with four catches on six targets for 39 yards, and White left a lasting impression on him.
"When he's playing off [the ball], he does a really good job of reading the receivers' body language," McLaurin said. "So if you're taking any false steps, if you're leaning in any routes, he's going to jump it."
McLaurin added that White excels at undercutting routes, which likely explains why he was ranked as the No. 7 cornerback by Pro Football Focus in June. In fact, 17.1% of targets in White's direction have resulted in either a pass breakup or interception in his career.
"White is right there with [Xavien] Howard as one of the best playmaking cornerbacks in the league," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "He also stands out as one of the better zone-coverage cornerbacks in the NFL, ranking in the 94th percentile of all cornerbacks on such plays during the 2020 season."
White hasn't dropped off since his first meeting with McLaurin, but neither has the third-year wideout. He's actually taken strides over his past 23 games. He had his first 1,000-yard season in 2020 and improved nearly every statistical category. And although he's only two games into 2021, he's caught 83.3% of his 18 targets for 169 yards and a touchdown.
"That's something that Terry brings to the table," quarterback Taylor Heinicke said when asked about McLaurin's incredible catch against the Chargers. "He's dynamic, he's a playmaker, so it's a lot of fun watching him run routes and catch the ball."
McLaurin only got four targets against the Chargers; he more than tripled that with 14 in Week 2. There's a good chance he'll get a similar number against the Bills, so how he performs against White could dictate a lot about how Washington's offense moves the ball.
"Just be ready for contested catches and a four-quarter battle," McLaurin said. "Because he can cover from the left, right, slot. He can pretty much do it all, and I gotta respect for the way he plays."