Playing defenzive back is one of the most pressure filled positions in sports. Sure, you can get the pick-6 glory sometimes, or save the day with a tackle for loss or clutch pass breakup. It seems like no one remembers those great plays as much as they do the time you got burned for the deep ball though. To keep that from happening, here are some of the top mistakes corners and safeties make.
Mistake: Looking at the QB / Ball Instead of the Receiver When the Receiver’s Got a Step on You
This is probably the most common mistake DBs make, especially those who are used to getting by on pure athletic ability. In this case, their athletic skills are making up for technique lapses by letting them close the distance before the ball gets there….. most of the time! Coincidentally, my son’s 7v7 defensive coach just went over this issue in today’s practice.
Job one is be in the receiver’s hip pocket. Once you’re there, and staying there, you can worry about things like finding the ball or what the QB’s doing. Remember, the QB is going to put the all in a spot for the receiver, so you need to know where he is, and be there.
Compounding the mistake of looking for the ball instead of keeping eyes on the receiver, is that doing so almost always causes the defensive back to slow down. Now, not only do you not know where the receiver is, but he’s outrunning you. Few athletes can make up the difference, especially facing the elite receivers found at many high schools now.
Some coaches teach waiting until the receiver stretches his arms to make the catch. Others say to watch the receiver’s eyes for when they see the approaching ball. Some counsel to wait until the ball flashes into your peripheral vision. Only then is it safe to turn and make a play on the ball. No matter which technique you’re using, losing the receiver makes it nearly impossible to defend effectively.
Mistake: Opening Up Too Late
Fixing this one was on the this afternoon’s training agenda as well. If you’re playing off, open your hips once the receiver gets inside your 3 yard cushion. Defenders worry about opening up too early, and consequently many wait too long to open up and get beat deep. If a speedy receiver gets within 2 yards and you haven;t begun to open up, he’ll blow right by you. You’ll have the best seat in the house to watch him grab a TD.
You’re worried he’ll break and you’ll open the wrong way, and that’s why you’re waiting? Yeah, it could happen. That’s why you train so hard to develop good transitional skills and coverage technique. If he does break on you, the most important thing is staying in control and using your training. Read his hips. If he does break inside you,
Mistake: Not Studying Your Opponent Before the Game
The other mistakes here are ones DB s make on the field. This is one they make off it, and it sometimes leads to the others. One thing about really studying your opponent is it slows the game down for you, so you play better.
Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman said once of watching film to study his opponents:
“That’s the only way you can prepare. If you go into the game blind, and you don’t know their tendencies, their offensive tendencies, — there are offensive tendencies – the plays they run, the plays they love, their bread and butter, then you have receivers — the routes they love, the routes they’re going to get open on. “
That should be enough to convince you to study your opponent. It’s not enough to merely watch film. Learning how to watch it, so you don’t just watch it, you see what it’s showing you, really makes the difference.
Mistake: Losing Inside Leverage
Here’s another one that can get you beat badly. If you let the receiver get inside you, you lose a natural defender: the sideline. Keeping him to the outside means he can go toward you, or toward the end zone. There’s only so far he can break or drift to the outside before he’s out of bounds. If he does go out of bounds and return, he’s no longer eligible to make the catch, so you’ve done your job; unless you can get a pick out of the deal, too.
Even if he makes the catch, he will have a much more difficult time gaining extra yards. You can push him out or tackle him. The sideline’s right there, ready to help you.
If you’re a defensive back, you’ve got one of the toughest jobs on the field. Whether you’re playing Pop Warner or NFL, there’s always a QB and receiver waiting to take advantage of you. You can be perfect all day, or all season for that matter, and then make one little mistake that costs your team the game.
Nearly every DB from high school onward knows that sinking feeling when the receiver gets by him on a deep route and a collective gasp arises from the crowd as the QB launches the ball. Eliminating mistakes can help make sure they’re cheering for you, instead of screaming at you.