The Greatest Press Man Cornerbacks in NFL History

Throughout the storied history of the National Football League (NFL), certain cornerbacks have etched their names into the book of football greatness. Among these extraordinary athletes, a select few stand out as the true masters of press man coverage. In this article, we jump into the legacy of the best press man cornerbacks in NFL history, exploring their techniques, contributions, and the impact they left on the game.

(1) Deion Sanders

Often referred to as “Prime Time”  and now  “Coach Prime”, Deion Sanders revolutionized the cornerback position with his unparalleled speed, agility, and coverage skills. Sanders wasn’t just a cornerback; he was an artist on the field. His press man technique combined physicality at the line of scrimmage with remarkable anticipation and a lightning-quick break on the ball. His ability to mirror receivers and close down passing lanes made quarterbacks think twice before throwing in his direction.  His technique is often critiqued by the new generation citing that some of the things he did in his time would not work today.  Don’t be fooled,  Sanders was so dominant that he would often do things to appear beat to induce a throw from the quarterback.  Some of those things would include having an overly wide stance at the line with his hands on his knees,  allowing a receiver to beat him to the post and then close the gap when the ball was thrown and backing off at the snap to give the receiver space.  True,  some of these techniques should not be deployed by lesser athletic DBs but that does not change Sanders’ mark on the position and the art of press man.  Sanders can be credited with the advent of the quick jam or jump jam where the DB rushes to the receiver at the snap of the ball to get a powerful jam nullifying the route.

High Interception Season: 7 (1994)

(2) Darrelle Revis

Known as “Revis Island,” Darrelle Revis was a lockdown cornerback who dominated the league during his prime. Revis’s mastery of press man coverage was a sight to behold. He excelled at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and consistently maintained tight coverage throughout routes. His quick footwork, impeccable timing, and understanding of route concepts allowed him to effectively shut down even the most elite wideouts.  Unlike Sanders,  Revis would engage in textbook technique with nearly every rep.  He was not about inducing a throw from the quarterback.  Instead,  he engaged in the practice of smothering a receiver so much that the quarterback was compelled to go elsewhere with the ball.  Revis came up in a time where stats were kept on PBUs,  catch rate, etc.  This was not a part of Deion’s era so Revis was incentivized to not have receivers get action during a game.  In Revis’ era,  no one did it like him.  At his peak,  the league’s best wide receivers would see a steep drop off in production in games where they had to line up in front of him.  Revis would essentially strip the quarterback of his safety blanket.  This would lead to mistakes being made throwing to guys and routes they weren’t used to.

High Interception Season: 6 (2009)

(3) Champ Bailey

A true technician on the field, Champ Bailey possessed the rare ability to shut down an entire side of the field. His press man technique was founded on a combination of physicality and anticipation. Bailey’s understanding of receiver tendencies allowed him to disrupt routes and cut off passing lanes. His smooth transitions, along with his ability to turn and locate the ball, resulted in numerous interceptions and highlight-reel plays.  If anyone embodied a combination of both Sanders and Revis,  it was Bailey.  Not quite as athletic as Deion and not quite as technical as Revis,  Bailey was the best combination of both.  Bailey did not rely solely on his 4.2 speed.  He made it a point to be technically sound as often as possible to.  Bailey’s time playing offense until college gave him the ability to anticipate the offense’s strategy and take chances on plays.  He was a lights out player for two franchises in the NFL.

High Interception Season:  10 (2006)

(4) Mel Blount

Regarded as one of the pioneers of press coverage, Mel Blount left an indelible mark on the game. With his imposing physicality, Blount redefined the cornerback position in the 1970s. His strength and size allowed him to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage, often throwing them off their routes. Blount’s press man technique became so dominant that it led to rule changes aimed at restricting the physicality of defensive backs.  We can all thank Blount for the number of penalties that are thrown on defensive backs in coverage these days.  He showed everyone just how dominant you can be at the position.  The NFL realizing that points sell tickets,  restricted his physical play to give wide receivers a chance to operate.  At 6’3” 205 lbs. with great athleticism,  just lining up across from Blount was enough to make a receiver forget the play.

High Interception Season: 11 (1975)

(5) Willie Brown

Brown is considered the father of bump and run coverage.  His name is not widely known by the newer generations.  However,  when the Oakland Raiders decided to deploy this new technique in the late 60’s,  Brown led the charge.  What ensued was a complete power outage of passing attacks when they faced the Silver and Black.  Brown,  a converted tight end and a reject from the Denver Broncos found new life when the Raiders slid him over to defense and said bump the receiver at the line of scrimmage.  His power,  technique and tenacity upset receivers on a weekly basis.  His bump and run style made teams one dimensional and was instrumental in the Raiders being annual playoff participants as well as Super Bowl champs in 1977.  Brown was also a big cornerback at 6’1” 200 lbs.

High Interception Season: 7 (1967)

The legacy of the best press man cornerbacks in NFL history continues to shape the game and inspire the next generation of defensive backs. From Deion Sanders’s speed to Darrelle Revis’s shutdown ability, Champ Bailey’s technique, Mel Blount’s physicality, and Willie Brown’s tenacity,  these players have left an enduring impact on the way the cornerback position is played.  There are many others who are worthy of being on a list of top press man cornerbacks like Rod Woodson, Lester Hayes, Albert Lewis, Richard Sherman and more.  However,  the ones listed here I believe are the top 5 in the category.  What do you think?  Did I get it right?  Comment below.

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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