Don’t Get Lost Defensive Backs. Read Your Keys

By: Chad Wilson
IG: @alleyesdbcamp

Imagine a blind man trying to play football.  How much do you think he would be worth on a field playing against a bunch of other guys who can see? Not much I would gather.  We’ve seen guys playing with broken arms and heavily taped ankles or feet however,  the only guy with a patch over his eye is on the side of the Las Vegas Raiders’ helmet.

When you don’t use your eyes properly while playing  you are essentially blind in a football sense.  As a defensive back your most important asset on the field are not your legs that you ran the 4.4 forty with or the hands that you used to bench press 315 lbs.  The most important asset are the eyes you use to relay the information to the brain that tells your hands and legs what to do.

One of the most important things your eyes are going to be used to do are read your keys.  Eyes are used to key the hip movement of a wide receiver in man to man coverage which gives you keys to what type of route you may be getting.  Your eyes are also used in zones to key the route combinations the offense is running so you will know who will be in your zone and will have to cover.  Your eyes will also be used to key a quarterback to see where he may be looking and ultimately throwing the ball.

In some situations,  your eyes will be used to key the movement by an offensive lineman right after the ball is snapped.  That movement will give you a pass or run read which signals to you what your assignment will be.  As you can imagine,  knowing the things that I mentioned would be rather important.  Far too often,  defensive backs,  particularly young ones,  are on the field playing blind.  They will have their eyes in the backfield watching the play like they are watching the game on TV.  More often than not,  the action in the backfield is not the key they should be reading.  Most misdirection and false reads come from the heavy motion in the backfield after the snap.

If you want to be successful as a defensive back,  it is ultra important that you focus on the keys that your coach has given you.  Or follow the keys that you have picked up on film.  Often times a complicated or tricky play by an opponent can be quickly determined by reading a certain player on the offense.  When that key player is not focused on after the ball is snapped, the trick  ends up being on you.

In closing,  if your key in a zone coverage is the #2 receiver then that’s where your focus should be once the ball is snapped.  If you’ve been told on a certain play that you should read the high hat / low hat of the offensive linemen then that’s what you should be focused on.  Trying to play football at a high level without reading the important players on the offense when a play is being run,  severely limits your chance at success.  Playing an instrument or singing when you are blind can work quite nicely.  Trying to play blind on the football field,  not so much.

Author: Chad Wilson

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.

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