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Inside of the 10-yard, there are two routes you must defend in an NFL playbook: slant and fade. A quick, one-step drop and the ball is out. Put the pressure of the defense to play with ideal technique and test the leverage of the cornerback.
Today, let’s go back to the AFC Playoffs during the Jets win over the Patriots and break down Mark Sanchez’s TD pass to Santonio Holmes. The fade route to the corner of the end zone that belongs on coaching tape across the league. First, take a look at the video replay and then we will get into some detailed coaching points.
Leverage: The Patriots CB to the open (weak) side of the formation, Kyle Arrington, is playing with inside leverage. Smart call with Holmes aligned outside of the numbers (play for the slant). Take away one route and use your technique to react and play the ball if you see the fade.
CB technique: Focus on the CB in the replay. With the “hop” release (stutter at the line) from Holmes, Arrington should use his hands and jam the WR in this situation. However, this turns into a “taxi” technique (or “mirror” technique), which allows Holmes to stem vertically on the initial release and then break for the pylon—taking advantage of the Pats’ CB playing with an inside shade.
Recovery: Arrington is beat here. No question. How do you recover? Whenever you are in a “trail position” as a defensive back, turn your head and get to the bottom hip of the WR (or “in-phase”). This gives you a chance to either find the ball or “play the pocket” when the WR puts his hands up to make a play.
Ball placement: Perfect throw from Sanchez. When I use the term “up-field shoulder,” this is the exact situation I am talking about. With the ball thrown to the outside of Holmes (and Arrington trying to recover from inside leverage), only the WR can make the play. That is what you want as a QB. A TD or an incompletion—but no chance of a turnover.
Finishing the play: Sanchez deserves a lot of credit for making this throw, but focus on Holmes after he makes the catch. Secure the ball first and then get the knee down to complete the play. One of the toughest aspects of the game for young WRs is knowing where they are on the field. Here, there is no room to tap the feet and going down with the knee is the only way we six points go up on the scoreboard.
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