Press coverage is an aggressive technique & alignment. The goal of playing press is to disrupt the timing and depth of the routes the WR’s are running. By having your Corner play press coverage you can take away quick, short, and intermediate routes that break inward toward the ball (Hitches, Curls, Digs, Post). When you are aggressive at the line of scrimmage, you will disrupt the routes of the receivers. The offensive passing game is all about timing and precision. We can use the bail technique for zone coverage. We want the QB to think man coverage and then right before the snap we bail to our zone responsibility. By using press bail techniques and alignments we can dictate the passing game to the offense by creating indecision, disruption, and reducing the routes we can see.
Mixing up the press and bail techniques allows the Corner’s to focus on their primary responsibilities without trying to defend every route on every play. All fronts and coverages have an inherent weakness. So we choose to focus on the strengths of the coverage and not allow us to forsake the primary responsibility of the coverage to defend the weakness of the technique. When you use press and bail techniques you make the QB make decisions pre-snap and post snap. If QB’s are going to beat us they have be decisions makers in 3-5 second windows. The QB assumes man coverage one play and then you play bail technique. The next play same press alignment and play halves coverage, and then the next play you play man. We want the QB to keep guessing at what coverage he is seeing. Most offenses will check to a fade with press alignment. You can bail and are able to get a pick on the fade. Make the QB make decisions!
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We know that offenses have certain answers for press coverage. For example, if the QB sees press, he may audible to a fade route. When we show press and then bail, it gives the defense a chance to attack the fade ball in the air for a takeaway. By showing press every snap it also forces the WR to focus on his release at the line of scrimmage, every single play. Our goal is to force the WR to focus more on getting off the line of scrimmage than their stem or depth of routes. We want the offense to react to us. We know that WR’s do not like to be touched. We want them to react to the Corner, rather than the Corner reacting to the WR.
Playing press is not more difficult than playing any other technique. We feel that playing press allows the Corner’s eye to focus more on the WR. When the Corner plays off technique, he must backpedal, shift his eyes, and transition while judging the receiver’s speed from distance. Playing press at the line of scrimmage has nothing to do with speed, it’s all about technique and feet.
Some players like to play more with their feet and some like to play more with their hands. Regardless of the style of play press technique is all about leverage, physicality, and playing the ball in the air. The teaching progression of press technique begins disciplined eyes, good feet, and then hands. Before the ball is snapped, Corner must have disciplined eyes, a functional stance, and proper leverage with their alignment. On the snap, the Corner must keep his shoulders square for as long as possible denying the leverage side. Patience will get you there in a hurry, don’t lunge and over step with your feet. Think of it like taking a charge in basketball, with an emphasis on bringing your feet and cutting off the receiver. Hands are the last part of the progression, most young players like to think of it as the first part. Down the field, the Corner wants to get hip to hip with the receiver and once he has cut him off, pin him and look for the ball. A Corner gets beat in press coverage in three ways: 1) at the line of scrimmage, 2) in transition, and 3) at the point of the attack.
The first part of the pre-snap plan is a good stance. A great press stance for the Corner starts with bent knees, feet under your armpits, and shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. A great stance has great body lean and weight on the inside balls of your feet. Hands are up ready to be physical.
The goal of press coverage is to take away leverage on the WR. The base alignment in press is for the defender to align their inside /outside foot on the crotch of the WR. Based on the players comfort and ability they can tighten their alignment closer to WR’s eye. Corner’s should align as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. If the Corner has longer arms he will want to play off the line of scrimmage a little so he can get full extension on his punch. If a long Corner is too tight their arm will get jammed in causing their feet to stop. This allows the WR to get off the line of scrimmage.
Aiming point and eyes will change with the techniques of coverage. However, in any man or man match concept the eyes of Corner should be on WR’s belt buckle. When the WR attempts his release you want to stay square with your shoulders and hips for as long as possible.
At the Snap
The goal of playing press is to disrupt the timing of the WR’s route while keeping your shoulders and hips square to the line of scrimmage. To accomplish this you must have disciplined eyes, hands, and feet. The more successful the Corner is at the line of scrimmage the more successful he will be down the field.
Again, the Corner must keep his eyes down on the hips or belt buckle of the WR. If the eyes come up, you are venerable for the fake, and your body pops up taking you out of good body lean, making transition very difficult. Where the eyes go, the body will follow.
Again, playing press is eyes, feet, and then hands. Playing press does not have to be a super violent technique. That doesn’t mean that we are not physical with our hands when we deliver a blow. Playing press is like taking a charge in basketball. Great feet will keep the WR at the line of scrimmage. The goal is to move my feet in front of the WR then deliver a blow. The Corner’s weight must be on the balls of his feet. If the weight is on his heels he won’t be able to transition smoothly. If the weight is not on the balls of his feet it could create a false step (hopping or lunging). False steps, lunging or hopping are a sure fire recipe for big plays. The goal is to mirror the receiver and disrupt the timing, not to wrestle the receiver. The other mistake Corner’s make is backing up or opening the gate. This can allow the receiver to run right by you at the line of scrimmage.
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When stepping the Corner must keep his feet under his armpits or in the cylinder. If they get too wide he becomes overextended, the feet will get outside the framework of his body and he will not be able quickly move his feet and transition. A wide base also causes your hands to drop because your lower body and upper body are tied together. When the receiver moves, the Corner moves. Get the feet moving, step and slide. The Corner must not cross his feet over, this will prevent them from being able to transition and open up.
A key component to effective press coverage is protecting the leverage side. The Corner must avoid taking a fake against his leverage. Disciplined alignment, eyes, and footwork are the key. He must be patient and cannot jump to one side. Hopping to one side defeats the purpose of press coverage.
Once the Corner has disciplined eyes and feet, the hands can be incorporated into press technique. The most important thing to remember when using your hands is that they go together with the lower body. A wide base causes your hands to drop. The Corner has to get his hands ready on the snap of the ball, they must keep them involved and avoid dropping them. Get your hands on the receiver unless he takes a radical release away from your leverage. Punch with the hand opposite the receiver’s release. The idea is to stay as square at the line scrimmage as long as possible. However, once the receiver makes his move, the Corner uses his hands to open his hips to match the receiver’s hips. When the Corner gets his hands on the receiver, he must deliver a blow, and punch the breastplate. If the Corner can get his hands on the breastplate, he will have a steering wheel to control the receiver. The Corner must remember to replace his hands on the WR if he tries to knock them off.
One of the keys to playing press is to keep the shoulders square to the line of scrimmage for as long as possible. This can best be described using a door analogy. It’s impossible to go thru a door if it’s closed. The same is true for a WR releasing into his route. He can’t go up the field if the Corner’s shoulders are square. This will disrupt the WR’s route, which is the exact reason we are playing press technique. If the Corner opens the door, this will allow the WR to run his route without disruption.
There are only so many releases that a WR can make at the line of scrimmage. If we know these releases and know what we can get, we will have the tools to be successful. These releases include releasing directly at the Corner, inside towards the ball, or outside and away from the ball tight or wide. Off of these initials moves, there are variations and counter moves such as foot fire. Because the most common leverage is inside by the Corner, the most common releases we see are tight outside or wide outside release (slants and fades). The key to defending these various releases is film study. A WR will not execute every one of the releases. The Corner must understand the WR’s body type, the offensives favorite routes, and the defensive coverage strengths and weaknesses to determine the release we will see.
Directly at the Corner
Bigger WR’s will use this release against smaller Corner’s. They will try to drive the Corner off the ball, get the feet to stop and/or weight on the heels instead of on the balls of the feet and/or lunge forward to engage them. To combat this, the Corner must match the receivers steps backwards one step at a time with a good base as he punches. The Corner cannot punch first or lean; this will stop the feet and enable the receiver to use his momentum against him allowing him to have an easy release. The Corner cannot back up too fast and take more steps than the receiver does. This creates separation and the receiver will have an easier time releasing and getting into his route. Think of press like drawing a charge in basketball, feet then hands. Picture Muhammad Ali boxing. He was able to step back and punch with full force because he had a good base and his hips coiled.
Foot fire is a release used by smaller and quicker receivers. The receiver will rapidly chatter his feet and hands to get the Corner’s eyes to focus on the parts of his body that do not have to move to release. The receiver is banking on the Corner being undisciplined with his eyes, back up pre-maturely, or stop their feet altogether. Defending this release starts with disciplined eyes. If the eyes are on the hips/ belt buckle, the shimmy of the hands or shoulders will not affect the Corner. This is because all the action of the foot fire release is happening away from the one body part that has to move for the receiver to release – the hips.
If the receiver steps inside right away, the Corner will sit down, stay square, and be patient. He can be a little late reacting because he is already aligned inside. If receiver continues to go inside and attempts to cross the Corner’s face, he must get his hands on the breastplate and triceps of the receiver. The Corner will ride the receiver down the line of scrimmage and flatten him out.
A receiver releases tight and outside for few reasons. The receiver may be running a vertical route (post, dig, curl, etc). The other reason is to try and open up the Corner hips and shoulders, to go back inside (slant). If the receiver releases outside, tight to the Corner, we must stay as square for as long as possible. The footwork, angle of hips, and punch will depend on the width of the outside release. If the release is tighter, the Corner will punch with the inside hand and step with the outside foot. On the second step, he will drag the inside foot, simultaneously replacing the outside foot.
If the receiver releases a little wider, the Corner will use the same footwork. He will punch with the inside hand to help him open the hips if the receiver continues to go outside. However, the Corner cannot hinge and open too quickly (open the gate). This will give the receiver a free release and will not disrupt the timing of the route. There is a tendency for the Corner to hop outside with his first step on an outside release. If he does this, he will open the inside and the receiver can easily get back across his face. The Corner must be patient and avoid giving up his leverage.
The main purpose of a wide outside release is to run a fade. The Corner must recognize the difference between a tight outside release (to run vertical or to come back inside and run a slant) and a wide outside release (for a fade). He will be able tell if it is a fade, because the WR will basically run away from him. On a wide outside release, the Corner wants to open up at a 45 degree angle with his inside hand hitting the breastplate of the WR. At the same time, he must drop the outside foot, roll over it, and get ready to run. The goal is cut off the WR down the field. The Corner wants to stay on top of the route hip to hip with the WR. Eventually you can widen him towards the sideline and hopefully out of bounds. The patient 45 degree cut off angle is important.
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The Corner must be careful not to jump out or widen too deep or fast down the field. If this happens the WR will be able to cut back inside of the Corner and open up the slant. The Corner must remember that the WR’s goal is to open the Corner up against his leverage. The second mistake the Corner can make is hinging and opening the gate. If this happens the WR will be able to run straight thru up the field. We will not be able to disrupt the timing of the routes. The third most common mistake Corner make is reaching or lunging for the WR. The Corner cannot chase the WR down the line laterally. The Corner must avoid staying square too long. If he stays square too long this will lock his hips and he will be in a trail position, unable to cut the route off. The key is a patient 45 degree angle, aiming at the near hip.
Along with the basic releases, there are two main counter releases. The receiver will take one step or 3 steps out and then break back towards the ball. Corner’s that play inside, will release outside to get them open up, and then come back underneath. Corner’s that are good at defending the outside release will get an inside release for a step or two, and then back outside.
In the open field, the Corner must continue to maintain good body position on the receiver, staying hip to hip and on the up field shoulder. The Corner wants to be tight to the receiver, with his eyes on the WR’s belt buckle. We want to be physical. Being physical is good, but we do not want wrestle with the WR. Wrestling with WR will create separation between the Corner and WR making it easier to complete the ball.
In & Out of Breaks
When the receiver makes a break, his hips will usually drop. The key to transitioning for a Corner in man coverage is to keep his eyes on the belt buckle. When you look back at the QB, separation occurs, and the Corner eventually gets beat. The angle the Corner maintains in and out of breaks depends on the route.
Finishing on All Routes
If the receiver catches the ball, the Corner must finish with violence!! He must punch and rip at the football with violent hands, while securing the tackle. This mentality must be developed in practice, where we must finish on every throw with violence during individual drills, 7 on 7, and team periods.
Press in the Red Area
In the Red Area, the route tree is cut down because of the length of the field is reduced. The top three routes you see are: slants, fades, and fades /stop back shoulder fade. For the first three steps, the Corner should anticipate the slant. Once the receiver takes more than three steps, it’s either fade or fade stop. Because the field is reduced, the Corner must look back quicker once the receiver clears his three steps. The Corner wants to make violent contact, cut the receiver off, roll into him hip to hip position, lean and fade the receiver, and look back to the ball quickly. If the Corner does not do this, separation will occur and he will be susceptible to the back shoulder fade.
Jeremy DeSoto enters his sixth year on the Evangel University coaching staff and fifth as the Crusaders’ defensive coordinator. He was elevated to assistant head coach prior to the 2019 season. DeSoto helped Evangel rank near the top of the conference in each of his first three seasons as the defensive coordinator. Following the 2017 season, the Louisiana native was recognized as the Heart Co-Assistant Coach of the Year with Evangel offensive coordinator, Dennis Darnell.
Prior to joining the staff at Evangel, DeSoto served as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Millsaps College, in 2013 and 2014. He spent five years at Mississippi College (from 2008-12) as a linebackers coach, as well as the director of football operations and video coordinator. During his tenure at Mississippi College, DeSoto also had stints as a defensive backs coach, special teams coordinator and defensive line coach.
DeSoto played collegiately at Louisiana College, where he earned four varsity letters. Following his playing career, DeSoto stayed at LC for three more seasons as an assistant coach working as a linebackers coach, special teams assistant, and assistant director of football operations.