There is the cat and mouse game that is played in every football game out on the edges between the wide receivers and the defensive backs. Receivers are trying to deceive the DBs and the DBs are trying to dictate to the wide receivers how things should go.
In the middle of that chess game is a myriad of techniques being used by both to get the desired outcome. In recent years, I have watched defensive backs willfully fall into the hands of the receivers’ schemes by doing this one thing that all receivers love to see. That thing is giving the receiver their back.
There has been this growing movement over the least decade to remove back pedaling from the defensive backs’ tool belt. Coaches and players alike think they have re-invented the wheel and are state of the art by turning defensive backs sideways and having them run down the field from the onset of the play. The mindset, as a result, has become turn and open in almost all coverage situations. Because of that, wide receivers are having a field day.
I am certainly aware that offenses have gotten more wide open and rules have become more restrictive for defensive backs. Those two things have led to the explosion of pass offense that we have experienced over the last 10 years. However, a big contributor to this passing yardage quest has been the deployment of poor techniques by defensive backs and those that coach them. Every receiver is taught to get the DB’s shoulders turned when they are running their routes. For them to win, they need to do this whether they are facing off man or press coverage. The best way to combat this is to stay square as long as possible.
Despite the winning formula being the ability to stay square, more and defensive backs are turning early, turning often and eventually spinning around, giving their backs to receivers. This practice is providing them with a sense of joy. Along with the turning and running, DBs have grown fond of speed turns. I blame Instagram as spinning in drills around cones has a certain cinematic appeal to it that gives the algorithm a woody. However, when the game comes and the spinning starts, the real person catching a raw deal is the DB that thinks he has eyes in the back of his head.
Nothing says winning to a receiver like seeing the back of a DB’s helmet. If you want to get more W’s in coverage, ditch the speed turns, learn how to weave, pedal and remain square as long as possible. Being able to do this takes the pressure off the DB and returns it to the receiver. He does not have all day to run his route. He can’t not make 100 moves to get open and there are rules when it comes to timing and depth that receivers must observe. When you open too early, run out of there too fast and otherwise surrender to the receiver’s wishes, you allow him to run the routes exactly the way it looks in the playbook.
Our number one job in coverage as defensive backs is to play big, disrupt routes and upset timing. When you turn sideways you reduce yourself, you become inviting and make receivers happy. We’re not in the business of making a receiver’s day. Work on your staying square skills.
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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.