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The majority of rookies don’t know how to study and break down film like a pro just yet. There is a process to understanding the NFL game, tendencies, etc. And I can tell you from my own experience as a rook in St. Louis, you need to know what to look for when you sit down and turn on the tape.
Here is my quick guide for rookie DBs on what to study in the film room:
For Dre Kirkpatrick and the rest of the rookie DBs, learning how to study game tape will lead to production.
Depth of the break: Outside of the 3-step game (slant, fade, quick out, hitch), every route breaks at a depth of 12-15 yards. This is key when looking at the double-move. If a WR chops his feet at 8-yards, don’t jump the route. You can see this on tape. And if a WR doesn’t drop his hips between 12-15 yards, turn your hips and go...the deep ball is coming.
Splits: WRs will give away their routes based on alignments. WR on top of the numbers? That’s the “Out” route. WR with reduced (or nasty) split to the formation? Play for an inside breaking concept or for the boot away. Use the numbers as landmarks and play for route concepts based on the pre-snap alignment.
Releases: This plays off of the pre-snap splits of the WRs. A wide alignment (outside of the numbers) with an outside vertical release? That’s the 9 (fade) or the comeback. A hard inside release? Probably to create room for the 7 (corner) route. Based off the initial alignment, the release will take you to the route.
Formations: 2x2 in the red zone: play for 4 Verticals. A 3x1 formation with No.1 to the open (or weak) side of formation in an “over split” alignment: get ready for the slant to the backside. Two receivers close together by their pre-snap alignment or short, “divide” motion to create a “stack” look: expect the Hi-Lo combination. These are just examples, but formations often tell you what to expect.
Players aligned out of position: This is big when you study tape. Always account for top targets when they are aligned out of position. For example, why would Detroit’s Calvin Johnson align as the No.2 WR inside of the numbers? Answer: to get the ball. Offenses will move their personnel to create matchups. Take notes in the film room when a No.1 WR is aligned out of position. It is done for a reason.
Hot reads: How does the offense handle pressure? Will they throw the slant vs. off-man coverage and target the fade vs. a press-look? Where does the QB want to go with the ball: inside of the numbers or to the outside? Who is the primary receiver when the QB reads blitz? There is no guarantee the blitz is going to get home, so study the route concepts and the QB vs. pressure.
Attacking the scheme: If you play in a Cover 2 (Tampa 2) defense, you better be prepared for the Flat-7, 4 Verts, etc. In a Cover 4 (quarters) scheme, I bet the “Pin” route is coming. If you show a lot of Cover 3, expect to see 3-level routes such as the OVS (9-7-Flat). Every offense in this league carries base concepts in their game plans designed to beat every coverage. You have to know how they will target the scheme.
These are just a few keys to study, but they will put you in a position to make plays on the ball. And rookie DBs have to remember that you can’t just line up in this league and play. Everyone can run a 4.4. Get on the tape, start with your divisional opponents and begin to learn offensive tendencies in the NFL if you want to be productive player.
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