How Do I Cover a _______ Route?

One of the most common questions I get either by email or in my DM’s on Instagram ( @alleyesdbcamp ) is,  “coach how do I cover a <insert route>?” This understandable but head scratchable at the same time.

Covering one specific route is like trying to lose body fat in just one area.  That’s not how that works.  Unless you know for sure a route is coming or you are just going to ridiculously over play a route then the answer to covering a <insert route> is to improve your fundamentals on covering all routes.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way,  let’s talk about three key ingredients to covering routes.  Cover your bases on these three things and you are going to put yourself in pretty solid position to cover that route that’s giving you trouble while not giving up just about every other route in the route tree.   Let’s face it,  I could tell you that the way to cover a go route is to turn around and start running back when the ball is snapped.  However,  you will undoubtedly begin to suck at covering the hitch, slant, quick out, curl, comeback, dig and probably the post.  You’ll be on the bench until the offense is facing a 3rd and 35.

First thing you must pay attention to when playing coverage is your alignment.  I could argue that this is the most important but unfortunately it’s one that many guys take for granted.  I can’t tell you how often I see guys line up at five or six yards when they are in off man coverage or line head up in press when they should have outside leverage.  If you align wrong,  you will be singing a sad song.  Know what your leverage is,  line up at the proper depth and know where your help is located.  If you don’t know what those things are supposed to be then you better find out quickly.

Second,  get your eyes in the right place.  “Coach I keep getting beat inside on the slant when I am in press.”  Rest assured that your eyes are in the wrong place when the ball gets snapped.  You are either looking at the receiver’s head or shoulders.  This gives you a late read on his movement and that allows him to take your leverage away from you.  If you are in outside leverage and you are supposed to have help inside then a slant is not the worst thing in the world that can happen to you.  Even in man coverage,  there are some routes you have to be willing to give up and some others that are an absolute no no.  So for instance,  giving up a slant route in 2 man is a sin.  Giving up that same route in Cover 1 is not as frowned upon.

Finally,  make proper use of angles.  The truth of the matter is that you win with angles in man coverage.  Being able to cut off routes, get to the upfield shoulder or merge into hips when the ball arrives is all a function of you taking the right angles.  This is the case whether playing off man or press man.  Taking the proper angle to cut off routes or be at the hip when the ball arrives should be your aim at all times.  Always be aware of the angles you are taking.  Don’t chase jams in press when the receiver is gone already.  That’s a good way to end up in chase mode.  Don’t break underneath routes in off man when you should be breaking for the upfield shoulder.  Understand angles,  apply them and watch how you are solid against the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9 and all other funky routes the offense throws at you.

I go more in-depth on eye discipline, alignment and angles with all of the members of my member’s area.  It really is a master class on playing defensive back.  Check it out and consider joining if you want to take your game to it’s highest level.  Click here for the All Eyes DB Camp Member’s Area.

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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