If you play defensive back then you are definitely always looking for ways to get your hands on the football more and let’s be honest, by getting your hands on we mean interceptions. Some may think interceptions are about luck but since I don’t believe in luck, I am going to give you six deliberate things you can do to grab more interceptions this upcoming season.
1 – Study the opposing team’s offense
Before the game, watch film to understand the tendencies of the opposing team’s offense. This can help you anticipate routes and better position yourself to make a play on the ball. Study things like the wide receiver splits and releases. Things like that mean something. Receivers don’t just go and line up wherever they want. There are specific places where they are going to line up to run specific routes on certain plays. It is in your best interest to know that. Also make a habit of studying the quarterback. Quarterbacks are constantly seeking comfort. This means they are going to have some tendencies and habits that are hard to break. Find those habits and use them to give you clues on what may be coming.
2 – Improve your footwork
Good footwork is essential for a defensive back to keep up with the receiver and make plays on the ball. Focus on improving your agility and quickness. I have an article on this blog in titled speed is something, but it’s not everything. Efficient movement as a defensive back is a premium skill. While it’s good to have straight line speed, if it does not come along with the ability to change direction, then it’s really not that much of an asset. Don’t rely solely on speed. Definitely put in the time and effort to develop your foot work, change of direction and efficiency in the most used defensive back moves. Check out this article here for more information on what the major defensive back moves are.
3 – Develop good instincts
Anticipate where the ball is going and be ready to make a play on it. React quickly to the quarterback’s movements and the receiver’s route to make a play on the ball. The development of good instincts comes from film study and practice/training. This means you’re going to have to put some time in but just know that the time put in pays off when you are in the games and know what’s coming before it happens. It is a tremendous feeling as a defensive back to know that something’s coming and actually have it happen. When it does happen, don’t doubt it. See it, believe it, and go!
4 – Work on your timing
Timing is crucial for making interceptions. Learn to jump at the right time to get to the ball and disrupt the receiver’s catch. Practice with a teammate or coach to get a feel for the timing required. This is also a skill that is developed through time and practice. However, it is one that you should not ignore as you are training. Being able to break at the precise time, shoot your hands on a jam at the right time or throw a hand in-between a receiver’s hand to break up passes is a very valuable skill. Check out this video that I made on breaking up passes.
5 – Stay focused
Pay attention to the game and stay focused on your assignment. Don’t get distracted by the crowd or the other players on the field. It is very easy to get mesmerized by top players that you are facing. Don’t ever put a wide receiver or a quarterback on a pedestal. If you’ve put in the work then your opponent has to earn whatever they get against you. They won’t just get their yards and touchdowns simply because of who they are. So have no fear of an opponent when you lineup. Also, when you are playing defensive back, what people in the stands who don’t have the ability to do what you do think should have no bearing on how you play. Don’t spend one second worrying about what they are going to think about anything that you do out on the field. Your sole focus should be on your performance and getting your job done. What anyone in the stands or viewing the game thinks about it should have nothing to do with you. You are the one trained to do the work that you’re doing and you are the one who has put in all of the time, not them.
6 – Communicate with your teammates
Let your teammates know what you see and hear on the field. This can help you work together to make a play on the ball. This is a very underrated part of the game. The biggest difference between professionals, and those in the categories below them is communication when they are out on the field. If you’ve ever had the chance to attend an NFL practice, one thing that will stand out is the communication that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. Most notably, that communication is happening in the backend amongst the defense of backs. Safeties must talk to corners and corners must talk to safeties. The better the communication, the better the success. Understand your role in each coverage, but also understand the role of those who are around you. I go more in depth about communication in the secondary in this article.
So now you have six solid ways for you to increase your play making ability when your next season comes. Follow the steps and work on developing them both during your off-season and in season. There is no way that you won’t improve your ability to be around the football and thus get more interceptions if you do.
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.