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Techniques and Drills

Part Two of a two-part series For Teaching the Corner To Execute Selected Basic Coverages.
by: Greg McMackin
Defensive Coordinator, University of Hawaii
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In part one of this article, I covered some of the philosophies and techniques we use to defend and control our opponent's passing game. I outlined our teaching progressions for the jam, trail, streak, close the post, post flat, press (bump and run), and the sideline and go techniques. Also, I discussed how we teach proper alignment and how to strip the ball from wideouts. Now I will detail the drills we use to teach our fundamental techniques.

Drill No. 1: Press (Bump-and-run) Drill

Purpose: To teach alignment, "punch" technique and position of a corner who is in a one-on-one press alignment on a receiver. Through repetition the defender learns the importance of balance and reaction time when playing Bump-and-run.

Procedure: A defender will be in a press position on the next man in line, who is acting as a receiver. The drill is broken down to first work several repetitions on the punch technique, getting the defender to be in proper alignment, straddling the receiver's inside foot while maintaining a good football stance. The defender's outside foot can be back, but it should not be back more than the inside heel.

After several repetitions of the punch technique, the receiver will start releasing inside and outside on the coach's direction. When the receiver releases inside, the defensive back will jam him into the backfield so that it is impossible to pick another defender on a pass, or block him if it was a running play. When the receiver releases outside, the defender will punch and widen the opponent so the timing of the route will be destroyed.

Coaching points: It is important to have total concentration during this drill. The defender must not overextend when executing the punch technique. The defensive back must maintain his balance throughout the technique as the defender must use his total athletic profile to maintain tight coverage on the receiver. The coach can break this drill down by having the players work in pairs so they can work together on each phase of the technique. The main purpose in teaching the bump-and-run technique is to allow the defensive backs as many repetitions as possible.

Drill No. 2: Jam Drill

Purpose: To teach the defensive back the first stage of the "jam" technique.

Procedure: As previously discussed in this chapter, when a cornerback is in a coverage where he is rolled up and responsible for the flat zone, he must perfect the jam technique. From a good football stance with the corner's outside foot up at a 5-yard depth, the first key is on the quarterback. When the quarterback comes off the line of scrimmage, the defensive back steps up with his inside foot, focuses on the receiver and executes the jam technique.

Divide the defensive backs in half and place in two lines. Each defensive back will rotate from simulating the receiver to executing the defensive back's responsibilities. If the drill is slowed down to better emphasize the finer points of the technique, it will allow the coach the opportunity to teach and demonstrate to each individual player. The drill is stopped at the point of contact between the two athletes.

Coaching points: When performing the drill it is important to start with a good stance and read the quarterback's key. As the quarterback comes off the line, the defensive back must maintain a 5-yard depth and move laterally. The defensive back's eyes focus on the lower part of the opponent's jersey numbers. At the point of contact, the defensive back continues to maintain hand contact while working the receiver laterally. When the defensive back has secured the receiver, he will look inside to search for the inside receiver. The drill is stopped by a whistle before separation of the two athletes.

The drill is run more efficiently when the receiver uses one of the defensive back's outside shoulders as a point of aim and runs at three-fourths speed. This allows better emphasis to teach the contact point of the jam technique. The defender must disrupt the receiver's route in either direction.

Drill No. 3: Jam-Z Back to Hole

Purpose: To teach the defensive back the technique of jamming the receiver and then getting himself into an area called the hole, which is approximately 12-yards deep in the secondary and five yards inside the sideline.

Procedure: The corner gets to the hole to force the quarterback to throw the ball over him, therefore allowing the safety to get a better break on the ball. If the quarterback throws to the flat, the defensive back is in good position to his flat responsibility.

This drill is set up exactly like the previous jam drill with the exception of the quarterback throwing the ball to the comer when he gets to the hole.

Coaching Points: When teaching this drill, it is important to emphasize the jam technique and search for the inside receiver first. At a later time a coach can add a back coming out of the backfield.

If the jam inside does not take the defensive back too far away from the sideline, he can backpedal to the hole. If there is a short split by the receiver and the defensive back is farther away from the sideline, he may want to use a crossover step, but must always be looking inside.

When the defensive back gets to the hole, he should be in a shuffle to lower his body so he can get a good break on the football. The corner should always take away the intermediate pass and rally to the short pass. He must not jump his flat responsibility until the ball is thrown there.

Drill No. 4: Jam Drill Run to the Numbers

Purpose: To teach the corner back to jam the receiver and then get into a position between the quarterback and receiver, thus making a pass completion difficult.

Procedure: The "jam and run to the numbers" drill is coached the same way as the "jam-Z to the hole" drill, with the exception that the receiver stems outside on his release. The quarterback will throw to the defensive back when he runs to the numbers on the field.

Coaching points: It is important to teach the defensive back to maintain contact on the jam. When his shoulders start to turn toward the sideline, he must turn back inside and run to the field numbers. The defensive back must not turn his back to the quarterback.

A common problem when teaching this technique is the defensive back can get too deep when running to the numbers. The corner must not run beyond 10-to-12 yards before he gets into his shuffle.

Drill No. 5: Tail Drill Inside Release

Purpose: To teach the defensive back the importance of never allowing a receiver to release inside.

Procedure: Under no circumstances should a defensive back ever allow a receiver to release inside. To emphasize this, the "inside release" drill is the first drill taught when teaching the trail technique. The drill is set up by positioning a line of receivers across from a line of defensive backs and giving a starting count for the drill to begin.

Coaching Points: The first emphasis of this drill must be assuring a proper stance by the defensive back. The defender should straddle the inside foot of the receiver. The feet should be slightly staggered with the inside foot up in a toe-to-instep relationship. The defensive back's eyes must focus on the inside number of the receiver's jersey. When the defensive back starts making good contact on the inside release and pushing the receiver back in the backfield, the coach may add an outside fake - then an inside release - to the drill. It should be emphasized that the defensive back should not move his inside foot on the first outside move by the receiver.

Drill No. 6: Trail Drill Outside Break

Purpose: To teach the defensive back to trail the receiver so that he is between the quarterback and receiver, thus making a pass completion difficult.

Procedure: The "trail drill-outside Break" begins with a line of defensive backs and one line of receivers. This drill also utilizes a quarterback who throws the interception to the defensive back at the conclusion of the drill. The defender will move on the receiver's movement. The receiver will release outside and run a 15-yard pattern.

Coaching points: When the receiver releases outside, it is important for the defensive back not to get too physical with him because he may push the receiver further away, making it more difficult to defend him.

The trail alignment must be one stride behind the receiver and one invisible man inside the receiver. The defender can not follow too closely or he will overrun the receiver's break. The defensive back must ignore all outside breaks because he has the time and angle to rally under the receiver's pattern to make the play.

When the defensive back trails the receiver, he should focus on the receiver's inside lower number. When the receiver's number raises up, the defender must lower his body and prepare to break on the receiver's pattern.

Drill No. 7: Trail Drill Downfield Inside Route

Purpose: To teach defensive backs the techniques of playing man coverage underneath the receiver when executing the two-deep man-under coverage.

Procedure: This drill is operated the same way as drill no. 6, with the exception that the receiver will ran a 10- to 15-yard inside route.

Coaching points: The technique emphasis is similar to drill no. 6 until the break of the receiver. It is important for the defender to ignore all outside moves. The defensive back's inside alignment will give him an advantage on defending the inside route. When the receiver breaks inside, the defensive back must continue to focus his eyes on the receiver until he feels he has control of the receiver's pattern.

A common problem with defending the inside break is that the defensive back looks to the quarterback on the break. If the defender makes this error, the receiver could run inside and then back outside. The receiver could also run a Post, therefore eluding the defensive back.

The corner should be between the quarterback and the receiver, making it impossible for the pass to be completed.

A coach may add to this drill by intermittently quick-releasing the receiver inside. Drills no. 6 and no. 7 can be combined. The advanced phase of the Trail Drill is to have the receiver fake an inside break and run an outside break. The receiver can also fake an outside break and run an inside break.

Drill No. 8: Rip and Club Drill

Purpose: To teach a defensive back how to separate the football from a receiver after a pass is completed.

Procedure: Many times when a receiver and a quarterback perfectly execute an offensive play a defensive back is put in a position of either giving up a completion or dislodging the ball from the receiver for an incomplete pass. There are several methods of stripping the ball, but we have found the "rip and club" technique is the most efficient.

This drill is executed by having two lines of defensive backs, one line represents the receivers, and the other will be a line of defensive backs who will execute the rip and club.

The coach stands facing the two lines at a distance of 10 yards away. The line representing receivers will be one stride closer to the coach to symbolize having position on the defensive back. When the coach brings the ball to a throwing position, the receiver and defensive back will run at three-fourths speed toward the coach. The coach will throw the ball to the receiver and the defensive back will execute the rip and club technique by tipping the arms with the hand nearest the quarterback, or coach, and clubbing the helmet with the opposite arm at almost the same time.

Coaching points: It is very important to regulate the tempo of the drill, as it can be a very aggressive drill if it is not controlled. The defender should execute the rip motion as the ball is touched by the receiver, with the club arm following slightly after contact with the ball. The complete technique must be played as though the defender is playing the football and not the receiver. It is against the rules to strike an opponent's head, so the defender must be going through the helmet to get to the football.

This maneuver will take the receiver's eyes off the football, and hopefully, will result in an incomplete pass. The defender must also work his hips between the receiver and the goal line so that he will not slip off the ball carrier and give up a big play. If the rip and club technique does not strip the ball, the defender will work himself into a good tackle position and get the receiver to the ground.Drill No. 9: Alignment and Post Corner Drill

Purpose: To reinforce proper vertical and horizontal alignment of the defensive back.

Procedure: This is an excellent drill to run every day to ensure the defender works hard on his backpedal and to execute a break to either a corner route or a post route, therefore emphasizing good hip and feet movement.

Begin the drill with a line of defensive backs who represent receivers. One defensive back will align six-to-seven yards in depth from the receiver and one imaginary man, either inside or outside leverage depending on the basic coverage being worked on. Two cones are aligned on the field at a point 15 yards from the receiver line and 10 yards apart. When the receivers move, the defensive back will begin to backpedal full speed, keeping his cushion on the receiver both vertically and horizontally. The receiver will be running at three-fourths speed and trying to stem outside of the defender's lateral cushion. When the receiver gets to the cones, or 15 yards up the field, he will run either a corner or post route.

It is important that the receiver not run his route before 15 yards because this forces the defensive back to stay in his backpedal and not turn his body too early, which is a common fault in backpedaling.

When the defensive back breaks on the receiver's route, he then gets in good position on the upfield shoulder of the potential receiver. There is no ball used in this drill so the coach can isolate the backpedal, leverage and turn techniques. These techniques are vital when achieving and maintaining proper position on a receiver.

Coaching Points: Make sure the receivers run less than full speed so the defender feels comfortable in his backpedal. As the players become more experienced with the drill, the receiver can gradually increase his speed. The receiver also must execute the proper post or corner move exactly. The coach must be very specific at the aiming point he wants the receiver to break on both routes. If he is not specific, he will get a variety of angles on the routes, and the purpose of the drill will be lost.


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