Is there such a thing as a “lockdown corner” in the NFL outside of a few select players? And, do defenses even need to have a player of that caliber to be successful and produce?
I still lean to three names when talking about the true cover corners in today’s game: Darrelle Revis of the Jets, Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders and Champ Bailey of the Broncos. Top tier talent that can eliminate an opposing offense’s No.1 WR, allow the deep middle of the field safety to lean to the opposite hash in certain Cover 1 schemes and force offensive coordinators to script their game plan to compensate for their abilities.
They are rare, and in today’s game, they are also complete players. We aren’t talking about a Deion Sanders type here. Instead players that can tackle, set the edge of the defense and become part of the blitz front in certain situations. Plus, they display technique that we usually only see on teaching tape and in coaching clinics around the country.
However, defenses have changed in the NFL. The Tampa 2, the zone teams, are a dying breed. Yes, every club still plays a form of Cover, 2, Cover 3 and even some Cover 4 in the red zone, but the focus has shifted. Pressure is the No.1 goal in the NFL today, and with pressure comes accountability from the secondary. Regardless of the 3-4 or 4-3 front, pressure is king.
But, you don’t need a corner with the skills of the Jets' Revis to pressure. Just yesterday I broke down a complex blitz scheme from the Saints defensive playbook under Gregg Williams—a coordinator who uses pressure as a weapon. Does he have the best talent at CB? Not really. Solid play and accountability, but not a player who can take away a Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald every snap.
Defensive schemes in the NFL have shifted to the point where corners don’t have to cover routes that have three different breaks. With six and seven-man pressures (and even eight-man pressure at times), corners can react faster, take more chances and rely on the pressure to allow them to make plays. You can get by with second tier players at the position because of this.
Does that mean that a player like Bailey isn’t wanted or isn’t a big part of the game plan? No, but I would call them a luxury. A great thing to have (for big money) that can create endless possibilites, but they aren’t a necessity to play winning defense.
Not many players out there that we can call “lockdown corners” anymore, but that won’t stop the defenses of this league from attacking. The ball has to come out quickly, and corners are talking advantage of it.
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