It’s that time of year again known as camp season. Time to line up and take 1-on-1 rep after 1-on-1 rep. There’s nothing like winning in those situations and if you want to do it consistently, you’re going to have to avoid these three big mistakes .
We all know that we have to have focused eyes in man-to-man coverage. Or at least, I think everyone knows that. If you didn’t know that, you do now. If you are going to win your press man reps at camp or live on actual game days you’re going to need have a pair of focused eyes. There is some small debate about what you should be watching at the line of scrimmage but there’s no debate for me. Your eyes should be focused on the hips of the wide receiver. What I often see happen though is a player will line up at the line of scrimmage with his eyes on the hips and then the moment the receiver moves, the DB’s eyes rise to the face or chest of the receiver. This starts the process of the defensive back biting on all the hard head and shoulder fakes of the receiver and throws him off course. This is, without a doubt, the biggest mistake that I see being made in press coverage. It is important to train your eyes to stay down on the receiver’s hips throughout the duration of the action at the line of scrimmage. It is also important to carry on this discipline up to a certain point during the route.. Whatever the case may be, moving those eyes up at the snap of the ball is a recipe for disaster. Start working on drills that keep your eyes down as you begin to move. I have several in the All Eyes Db Camp Member’s Area.
Opening the Gate
The receivers are looking for room at the line of scrimmage and I see many defensive backs in press coverage being rather generous. Whether it is a lack of coaching, training or trust in their speed, opening the gate is another recipe for disaster. Opening the gate is basically turning your body sideways at the line of scrimmage the moment the receiver moves on the snap of the ball. Receivers would love to run their routes exactly the way they look in the route tree in the playbook. When you line up in press man coverage, the whole goal is to disrupt that tree. When you open the gate, you forfeit your chance to be able to do that. Now you have turned it into a track meet that has several possible detours. Wherever those detours may be, you will be the second person out of two to know about it. When you give the wide receiver all the room he wants to make his moves, you can expect him to win more times than not. Understand that you are in press coverage to disrupt the path of the route. You do this by moving your feet and using your hands to get the wide receiver off his course. When you open your shoulders immediately at the line of scrimmage and allow the receiver to accelerate straight off the line, you are setting yourself up for failure. Start working on your discipline with your feet. This will allow you to move your body in front of the receiver and get him off of the straight line he wants to work on. When this happens, he has two choices. He can either continue to try to run away from you which pushes him further off of his course or he has to get close to you in which case you can now use your hands to further disrupt his path. When you open up at the line of scrimmage, you make neither one of those things possible. Developing a good kick slide will work wonders for you and press man coverage.
Looking at QB Out of the Break
This mistake is especially painful because it can cause a defensive back to lose a rep even when he was in good position for most of it. While I know most defensive backs in press coverage are in fear of the fade, the truth of the matter is that many routes versus press break off. What I see many defensive backs, both experienced and inexperienced, do is take a peek at the quarterback the moment the receiver makes his break. This hurts for two reasons. First, it slows your acceleration toward the receiver that is getting separation on you. Most of the time, that receiver is going to make his break first and then you react. When you fail to keep your eyes on him and look back at the quarterback, you lose a step or two that you could gain by focusing on him. The second problem that this causes is that it may make you unaware of the fact that the receiver has changed course after the break. The reason why double moves work is because the defensive back on the play sent his eyes to the quarterback too soon. We know that not all routes are in a straight line even after the break. It is in your best interest to focus on the receiver out of the break for at least a step or two before you check to see if the ball is coming. The only time you may be OK and not doing this is if you are in really close contact with the receiver and can have a hand on him to know where he is. Otherwise, it’s best for you, in your training, to focus on keeping your eyes on the receiver when he makes his breaks. Do this and I can promise that you will be able to get your hand on more balls thrown to your man in press coverage.
Make an effort to attack these three things the next time you are out training and you will see a noticeable difference on how your reps go when you are playing press man coverage. For more in-depth information on drills and techniques to improve your man coverage, check out the All Eyes DB camp Member’s Area.
Chad Wilson is the owner of All Eyes DB Camp and author of "101 DB Tips". He played college football at the University of Miami and briefly in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Over his 15 year high school football coaching career, he tutored over a dozen Division I defensive backs and as a trainer has worked with NFL All Pros, first round draft picks, college football All Americans and Top 10 ranked high school football prospects.