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Techniques and Drills. Part One 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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The Jam technique is one of the most important techniques a corner must master when his responsibility is to roll up to defend the flat or when it is a pass play, such as in two-deep zone. At the snap of the football, the corner's alignment should be five-to-six yards deep and head up on the receiver with his outside foot up.

The defender's key should be the quarterback. If the quarterback comes straight down the line of scrimmage, as when running an option play, the corner will contain the football and take the pitch man on the option play.

If the quarterback comes off the line of scrimmage, the cornerback will execute the "jam" technique. The corner will step up with his inside foot to parallel his stance. He focuses his eyes on the lower part of his opponent's jersey number. The defensive back will not lunge, or go forward, but will go laterally, not breaking the parallel angle. He should be in a low, athletic stance with his elbows in to his sides and the palms of his hands facing the receiver.

It is important for the defensive back to work his feet laterally so that he can get solid contact on his opponent. The speed of the receiver should actually give the defensive back his power when jamming the receiver. The shoulders should be kept square with the line of scrimmage when making contact. The defender's eyes should stay on the opponent's numbers until contact is made.

The most common mistake a defensive back can make, besides not moving his feet laterally, is trying to sneak a quick peek inside to see the play before he makes contact. When contact is made, the defender's main objective is to disrupt the receiver's route. It will not matter if the receiver goes outside or inside the jam. If the cornerback has good position on the receiver, he may use a six-inch jab with his hands. (See Diagram 1.)

When contact is made, the defender may take a look inside to search for the inside receiver who may be threatening the flat area. He must maintain contact with his opponent when searching the inside.

It is important to maintain contact with the receiver as long as possible. If the receiver is releasing inside, the corner should stay with that receiver as long as he is not threatened by the inside receiver who is invading the corner's flat responsibility.

The corner will also release the receiver when his opponent reaches a point on the field even with his position. The defensive back will then "Z" back to the hole, which is an area 10-to-12 yards deep between the sideline and the field number. (See Diagram 2.)

The technique of' "Z-ing" back to the hole will put the defensive back in a position to handle his flat responsibilities and also help the safety by being under a pattern which is thrown to the hole. This position forces the quarterback to throw the ball over the corner, which allows the safety a better break on the football. If the quarterback throws to the flat, he can break to his flat responsibility.

The corner may either backpedal to the hole, or use a crossover step. He must always be looking back inside to search for the inside receiver threatening his area of responsibility.

If the receiver releases outside, the corner must utilize the same technique as if he releases inside. The defensive back tries to jam the receiver out of bounds if he can. When the corner's shoulders start to turn he must release the receiver and turn, inside, then run to a point 10-to-12 yards upfield getting to the field numbers. (See Diagram 3.)

The technique of running to the numbers after the jam helps the safety's play on the fade route. The corner's position makes the quarterback throw the ball over the corner, which keeps the ball in the air longer and allows the safety more time to get to the football for the interception. if the quarterback throws to the flat, the corner is in excellent position to react to his responsibility.


The "trail" technique is performed when a corner has man-to-man responsibility on his receiver and the safeties are helping him by playing zone over the top of him. When executing a coverage such as two-deep man, the corner is only responsible for the pass. He has no run responsibilities.

The defensive back will align himself at the line of scrimmage in a bump-and-run position. He will straddle the receiver's inside foot with his inside foot in a toe-to-instep relationship. The most important factor is to not let the receiver get to the defensive back's inside. If the receiver tries to release inside, the corner will jam him into the backfield, thus eliminating the threat of a pick play or a crack-back block on a running play. When the trail technique is used vs. the inside release, the inside foot should never be moved. The defensive back should concentrate on the bottom of the inside number. (See Diagram 4.)

If the receiver releases outside, it is important not to move the inside foot until the receiver is parallel with the defensive back, or has taken his second step. The cornerback must be patient. He must ignore all outside moves by the receiver and realize he has safety help on top he is his own underneath coverage.

When the receiver releases outside, the corner will trail him by one stride. He will align himself straddling the inside leg of one invisible man inside the receiver. (See diagram 5)

The corner will concentrate on the lower inside number of the receiver. He will trail the receiver,without fully extending his body. When the receiver's numbers come up, it is the corner's key that the receiver is getting himself in position to make his break on the route. At this point, the defensive back should run in a semi-crouch, thus allowing more balance as he prepares to defend the receiver's break.

The defensive back must ignore all outside breaking routes by his opponent. The angle and distance of the throw when defending an outside break by the receiver allow the defensive back to rally to a point underneath and between the receiver and quarterback and make the play on the football. (See Diagram 6.)

When the receiver makes an inside-breaking pattern, the defensive back is in excellent inside position to defend the route. It is important for the corner to get between the receiver and quarterback, thus making it impossible for the offense to execute the play. (See Diagram 7.)

The defender must keep his eye contact on the receiver well into his break. If the defensive back looks back to the quarterback on the inside break, he can lose the receiver on an in and out route, or a post route. (See Diagrams 8-11.)


Proper alignment is one of the most crucial aspects of playing the defensive back position. The defender must have correct depth and width from a receiver. The corner's depth yardage will vary depending on his responsibility in a given coverage call. Depth will vary from the defensive back being on the line of scrimmage when using a coverage that utilizes the trail technique, to seven to 10 yards deep when his responsibility is defending the deep one-third zone or when playing man coverage.

Width alignment is very important to maintain because a good receiver will always work on getting a head-up position on a defensive back. The defender must maintain his width alignment throughout the pass route.

When lining up on a receiver's inside, the defender should visualize an imaginary man on the inside of the opponent. If he aligns on the outside of his opponent, he should use the same visualization of an imaginary player on the receiver's outside. If taking away the inside shade of the receiver, the defensive back should straddle the inside foot of the imaginary player. If he wants to shade the outside of the receiver, he should straddle the outside foot of the imaginary receiver. (See Diagram 12.)


Whether a corner is playing deep one-third zone or man-to-man with no safety help, he must perfect the streak technique. The receiver will usually stem toward the sideline when running a streak route. He will also give an indication of running the streak by not raising his numbers throughout his route.

When the defender reads the streak keys, he must come out of his backpedal and step with an outside foot step that strides upfield. The defensive back has to open his hips and not be extended to allow his body to proceed upfield with as little effort and as quickly as possible.

The defensive back should run stride for stride with the receiver, looking him in the eye. As he runs with the receiver, he should try to squeeze him out of bounds. This technique is continued until the receiver's eyes show he is going to catch the ball and his hands go up to make the catch. At this point in time, the defensive back will turn his head into the field to look for the football. It is very important for the defender to keep his shoulders pointing up the football field when he turns his head. A defender will run in the direction his shoulders are pointed. (See Diagram 13.)

When a defender is behind a receiver while defending a streak pattern, he should never look for the ball. He will catch up with the receiver and strip the ball by putting his hands in the receiver's hands, therefore making it impossible to catch the ball. The defensive back should also not look for the ball when it is thrown on a quick streak, such as in a goal-line situation, or on a blitz. In these two situations, the ball is thrown too quickly and it is better to play the receiver's hands.


The corner uses the "close the post" technique when he defends the outside one-third responsibility of three-deep zone. When the receiver runs a post pattern in the defensive back's zone, he must close the post so he can make the play if the ball is thrown on the post break. The defender must also close the post so the receiver cannot run a post flag route without running through the defensive back. This will give the defender good position when defending the flag pattern.

Close the post is performed by the defender drifting in the direction of the post break while calling out the route to the free safety. After closing the post, he should get depth in his zone and watch for a threatening combination pattern. (See Diagram 14.)


When defending the "post flag" pattern, whether the defense is zone or man coverage, the defender should give up body position for a smoother foot pattern. The defensive back will first close the post and keep his body in a position that forces the receiver, if he is attempting to run a flag pattern, to run through the defender . When the flag aspect of the pass route is run by the receiver, the defender should not drop step, but should mirror the receiver, putting the defender in a position between the receiver and the sideline. The drop step takes too much time to perform and sometimes trips the defender. (See Diagram 15.)


When playing man-to-man coverage on any sideline pattern, a defensive back should break toward the shoulder closest to the sideline. The defender's cushion from the receiver should allow for the possibility of a streak break off of the original pattern. It is important for the defender to use the "sideline and go" read technique, which is to key the receiver's numbers. If the receiver turns the numbers on his back to the defensive back, he is getting in position to catch the football on a sideline pattern. If the receiver does not show his back numbers to the defensive back on his sideline break, he is keeping his body in position to run a sideline and go pattern. If the defender does make a mistake and plays the sideline pattern too tight and the receiver breaks on a streak pattern, the defender must attempt to knock the receiver down, or out of bounds.


When a blitzing strategy is used to attack an offense with six or more pass rushers, a defensive back must play his receiver one-on-one with no help from other defenders. The defender can align off the receiver or he may choose to press, or align himself on the line of scrimmage. If he lines up on the receiver, he must never let the offensive player get inside of him. He should straddle the receiver's inside foot and jam the man back into the backfield if the offensive man releases inside.

On the receiver's first movement, the defender will punch with both hands at the bottom of the opponent's numbers. It is important that he keep his thumbs up, which will keep the elbows close to his side. The defender must not overextend or lose his balance when executing the punch technique. By using the punch technique, the defensive player will jam the receiver into the backfield if he releases inside. If the receiver releases outside, the defensive back will widen his route and, therefore, destroy the timing of the route execution between the quarterback and receiver.

If a receiver runs a go or streak route, the defensive back widen the route, making sure the offensive man cannot come back inside, and will then get in a position on the inside hip of the receiver and try to snuggle him out of bounds.

The defensive back will run stride for stride on the go route and keep his eyes on the receiver until his hands reach for the ball. The defender will then put his hands in the receiver's hands and slap the ball away.

If the blitz is executed successfully, the ball will be thrown quickly, which does not allow the defender time to look for the football. Often, just disrupting the route and the timing of the offensive play will allow the blitz to be successful. (See Diagram 16.) In our next issue (July), Part two will highlight the drills Coach McMackin uses to teach the techniques described in this article.


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