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Last week, we talked about the technique at the free safety position using video of Ed Reed’s interception vs. the Bengals to breakdown footwork, angle to the ball, etc.
Today, let’s go back and check out Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark to discuss the play he made on the 7 (corner) route vs. the Ravens. Check out the video and then we will get into some coaching points to break down why my former Redskins’ teammate was able to make a big play.
Personnel and alignment: As I have said before, the personnel and alignment when the offense breaks the huddle tells a story. Here, we see the Ravens in a Tank Wing alignment (1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB) with an extra o-lineman inserted into the front. What does that tell you as a free safety in the middle of the field? You have two chances for a vertical threat from the backside X receiver and the TE, Todd Heap. Veteran players—such as Clark—know what route schemes to expect based on this alignment.
The route scheme: Earlier this week, I broke down three routes you must stop to be a successful defense in the NFL. No.2 was the Spot route (7, curl, flat combo). That’s what we are looking at on the video with some slight window dressing. Instead of using the Z receiver to create a bunch look (as I drew on the chalkboard), the Ravens are running what is called “X Spot.” Drag the backside X underneath to replace the Z receiver on the curl. A basic 3-man combination route with the TE, Heap, running the 7 cut.
Breaking on the ball: If you want to make a big play on the playoff stage in this league you have to go get the football. Check out Clark’s break from the middle of the field—because there is a reason behind this. With the X receiver running underneath, the Steelers safety now only has to play one vertical route. And with protection on the outside from the CB playing on the bottom hip of the TE, Clark can read the release of the TE (keeping his eyes out of the backfield on the play fake) and break before the ball is even thrown.
Flacco's throw: At first glance, you want to say that QB Joe Flacco needs to put the ball away from Clark and on the up field shoulder of Heap. But check the technique here from the CB on the end zone angle. It is smooth. Open your hips, keep leverage and use the FS help from Clark to play for an outside breaking route. Now I’m not a huge fan of the CB looking back for the ball (always teach DBs to play through the hands of the WR), but this does have a direct impact on where Flacco tries to place this pass. With the CB playing for the 7 cut, Flacco has to throw the ball back to the inside—and that is too easy for a vet like Clark.
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