Mind on Lock; 5 Key Mental Elements You Need In Press Coverage

When It comes to training and improving your press man skills,  the emphasis is most often put on developing the physical characteristics that are necessary to stay in front of and on the hip of a wide receiver.  However,  there is a big mental component to playing press or man coverage in general.  You can give yourself a big edge if you don’t ignore this element in your training and work to develop your press man mental skills.  In this article,  I am going to tell you five very key mental aspects to press man coverage that you need to develop.

Spatial Awareness and Route Recognition

A great press man cornerback possesses a high football IQ and spatial awareness. They can anticipate route combinations, read the receiver’s intentions, and react accordingly. By recognizing route concepts and understanding the receiver’s tendencies, the cornerback can position themselves strategically and disrupt passing lanes. One big example of this is on a fade route.  Having an understanding of how much room the wide receiver has to work with gives the intelligent defensive back a clue as to which way he should look for the ball.  Should the DB look through the receiver for the ball or look inside to locate it?  This is determined by the amount of space there is between the wide receiver and the sidelines.  The more space there is between the receiver and the sidelines,  the more likely it is that you would need to look through him for the ball as location of the pass has a higher chance of being located to his outside shoulder.  Have an awareness of how much space the receiver has to work with in his route.

Confidence and Mental Toughness 

Press man coverage can be physically demanding and mentally challenging. A great press man cornerback possesses confidence in their abilities and the mental toughness to remain composed even when facing top-tier receivers. They trust their technique, physicality, and instincts, which allows them to thrive in one-on-one matchups and embrace the challenge of shutting down opposing receivers.  This mental toughness should not waver when the defensive back gets beat.  A good press man defensive back realizes that they will not win every rep and that their level of confidence should not rise and fall with the success of each rep.  The most important play after the one that just finished is the next one.  Remain confident after each play no matter what the outcome was.  If you have put in the required time training and studying,  it’s only a matter of time before you make a big play when the offense is attacking you.

Film Study and Preparation

The best press man cornerbacks understand the importance of film study and preparation. They analyze their opponents’ tendencies, route combinations, and release techniques. By studying film, they gain a deeper understanding of their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to anticipate routes, releases, and adjustments on the field.  You will often find this element working it’s way into the articles that I write on this blog.  You simply can’t excel in coverage of any kind without studying.  You put yourself at a disadvantage on the field if you are totally in reactive mode.  There has to be a certain level of anticipation while you are playing and the only way to get that is by studying your opponent.  Not only should be you be studying your opponent but you must now believe what you see in the game when it happens.  Trust your film study and be aggressive when the situation unfolds the way you expected it to.

Communication and Collaboration 

While press man coverage is primarily an individual task, great cornerbacks also excel at communication and collaboration within the secondary. They effectively communicate with their teammates, ensuring proper coverage assignments, adjustments, and pre-snap alignments. Solid communication and collaboration help the entire secondary function as a cohesive unit. Some defensive backs get the idea that the moment man coverage is called they are on their own.  This is faulty thinking.  Football is a team game and thus there is always help even in man coverage.  In certain coverages there is help in the post,  on the hash or underneath.  Even when the coverage dictates that there is no help from another member of the secondary,  the help comes from an intense pass rush,  the sidelines or the backline of the end zone.  Make it a point to know where your help is and to communicate with your teammates so that everyone is on the same page.

Competitive Mindset and Resilience

Great press man cornerbacks possess a competitive mindset and an unyielding resilience. They embrace the challenge of facing top receivers, thrive in one-on-one matchups, and bounce back from any setbacks. Their unwavering determination allows them to maintain focus and intensity throughout the game, consistently disrupting passing plays.  There is a scene in the famous movie Training Day where the main character played by Denzel Washington rolls down the window and says to his police partner “you gotta smell the streets,  you gotta love it” or something close to that.  The point is,  you have to love the challenge of getting up in a wide receiver’s face and eliminating him from his team’s game plan.  If you have a genuine love for something you will do whatever you have to do to succeed at it so you can keep doing it.  Learn to love the challenge of matching up 1-on-1 vs the man in front of you.  Once you adopt that mentality,  everything else will fall in place. 

There are a lot of physical attributes that are necessary to excel as a press man cornerback but those tools will be of little help to you if you don’t posses the right mental aspects to defeat your opponent.  Those mental aspects are spatial awareness with route recognition,  confidence with mental toughness, film study, communication and a competitive mindset.  Devote part of your training to develop those areas and watch how it enhances your press man coverage abilities.  

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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