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We see DBs get beat every week in the NFL. Maybe it a 9 (fade) route vs. a CB in press-man or a deep half safety giving up the post-corner in Cover 2. But why do DBs find themselves in an adverse position when they are suddenly on the wrong end of an explosive play? Three reasons. That's it. Let's check them out.
ICONThat's me getting beat for a TD on the post-corner. Why? Poor footwork at the top of the route stem.
1. Eyes: Where are you looking? That is the first thing you will hear from a DB coach when you turn on the tape after giving up explosive play (I heard it often during my career). Think of a CB looking back in at the QB while in man-coverage, a DB with his eyes in the backfield on play action or a safety that isn’t reading his run/pass keys at the snap of the ball. Forget talent or ability here. Because if you don’t understand what you are looking at (personnel, formation, alignment, stem, splits, etc.) or fail to read your pre and post-snap keys, you won’t make the play. Believe (and trust) what you see and put your eyes in the right spot if you want to produce in the secondary.
2. Leverage: Know where your help is. There is a reason DBs are coached to funnel receivers to the middle of the field in Cover 1 (man-free) and use the sideline as their help (Cover 0). Every scheme is built on leverage. And the success of that scheme depends on the secondary’s ability to hold (and maintain) their leverage in coverage. Don’t give up an inside breaking route in zero-man or allow a WR to catch a 7 (corner) route when you aligned in a man-free scheme. Play to your help; hold that initial shade throughout the route stem and drive through the upfield shoulder of the receiver.
3. Footwork: Every skill player at the NFL level can run and a 4.4 40 time is nothing special once you line up on Sundays. That’s why footwork (or technique) is crucial to winning in the secondary. Don’t “open the gate” (open your hips at the line of scrimmage) or “step in the bucket” (step behind) when the WR makes a cut at the top of the stem. That automatically gets you beat vs. NFL wide outs. At the safety position, know when to use a “closed angle” (baseball turn) vs. an “open angle” (open to the QB). And always keep your feet under control and have balance to your game. You might get by and recover with sloppy footwork on occasion. If you want to stick in the league and see valuable minutes on Sunday, your technique has to be clean.
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