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Defensive Back Covering Tips

The wide receiver and defensive back matchup is one of the most high speed, competitive, and highly visible matchups in all of sports, save fighting and tennis.

Meaning: if you lose, everyone watching the game is most likely going to see it.

This should be a great motivator for you to win. Every time.

When covering receivers, there are certain things you should always do to put yourself in the best position win and make a play on the ball. Here they are:

Read the receiver's hip/abdomen area.

This is the receiver's center of gravity and will tell you where he is going. Trying to read his face will almost certainly get you head-faked.

Initially break toward the receiver's break-side shoulder.

Unless you anticipate the receiver's break, sometimes you'll be slightly behind the route. Which is why you want to break toward his break-side shoulder, because this is where the ball will be thrown. This puts you in better position to redirect and pick the pass off or break it up.

If you break toward his back-side shoulder, you're at a disadvantage if the ball is thrown in front of the receiver, which is what quarterbacks are taught to do.

If you feel, however, that you can successfully undercut the receiver and make the play, by all means do so.

Remember your job is to pick the ball (and take it to the house).

Always get to the receiver before you look for the ball; if you see the QB throw it, you'll only see the receiver catch it.

The most frequent mistake defensive backs make when covering receivers is looking at the quarterback for the ball as soon as the receiver breaks into his route.

This is cool if you have the receiver covered, but if he has you beat by a step or more, it makes no sense; the quarterback is throwing to him, not to you. Even if you are absolutely sure you can make up ground in time, the act of looking in the backfield slows you down enough that you still might not get there.

So get to the receiver's hip before looking for the ball.

When lining up, you want to keep an inside leverage on the receiver.

This depends on the coverage that is called and sometimes what the coach's preference is. Nevertheless, most of the time you want to stay inside the receiver to stop from giving up the field.

This is because for the quarterback, a throw to the open field is an easy throw and also gives the receiver the whole field to work with.

On the other hand, a throw to the outside is a longer, more difficult throw. Besides, you have the sideline as your friend even if the receiver does make the catch.

Never let a receiver beat you to the inside.

When a receiver breaks your 3-yard cushion, it's time to open up and run with him.

Many cornerbacks get beat because they open up too late. If a receiver gets up on you and you don't open up in time... It's gonna be "bombs away!"

Don't sweat having to open up. Stay calm. Judge your receiver's speed. You shouldn't be in a rush to open up, because that gets you on your heels and that's when receivers will take advantage.

If he does break your cushion, gets you to open up, and then breaks into a route, its okay. Don't panic; read his hips and use your great technique and transition speed to break on the route.

At the same, you want to make sure you don't get beat deep. Here's something to remember this rule by:

"If he's even, he's leavin'."

If a receiver tries to push off of you when breaking into his route, lean into him and tug underneath his armpit.

Hey, he's cheating (and refs don't call most push-offs anyway), so its okay even the playing field by using this little tactic.

It's kinda hard for the refs to see it since your hand is sandwiched between you and him.

I would be doing you a disservice if I told you to just tell the ref about the pushing off. Most times they won't even notice, and they might ignore your complaints, anyway. Sometimes in football (as in life) you're gonna have to get a bit dirty.

Just don't get caught ;) penalty flag

If a receiver has you by a step or two, slap his thigh or wrist to slow his momentum.

This bends the rules a bit, but its better than getting scored on, and I've never seen a flag thrown for it.

This tactic slows the receiver a bit so you can make up ground and break up the pass or make a play on the ball.

Wide Receiver Passing Tree

This is the passing tree. It consists of the basic routes receivers run. You should at least have some knowledge of what numbers correspond to which routes.

For the most part, even numbers correspond to routes that go toward the inside of the field, while odd numbers are for routes that go to the outside of the field.

  1. Hitch/Comeback/Screen/Stop Route
  2. Quick Slant, or shallow Drag across the field
  3. Arrow, or Slant, toward the sideline
  4. Quick In route, or shallow Dig across the field
  5. Quick Out
  6. Curl In/Out, or deep Dig across the field
  7. Corner Route (also known as a Flag)
  8. Post Route
  9. Hail Mary


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