Playing man coverage in football is one of the hardest things for a defender to do. Often times the defender is left without help from any of their teammates and must successfully defend from a wide receiver who naturally has an advantage. As a defensive back, you are naturally at a disadvantage because you are backpedaling and the offensive player is running full speed at you. However, someone has to play defense. There are great defensive backs who excel at shutting down wide receivers. These defensive backs are competitive and physical, but most importantly, they understand that they are bound to get beat sometimes. No one is perfect. With that said, read on to learn how to become a better defensive defender and stick to the wide receiver all game long.
If you are a defensive back and you are playing man coverage, you have to decide how you are going to cover the wide receiver. If the receiver is fast, you may want to back up some to give yourself more cushion so he doesn't eat your cushion up as quickly. If he is big and slow, you will probably want to get up in his face and jam him at the line of scrimmage before he starts running his route. It's basically depends on your confidence level, your skill level, and how good the wide receiver is when deciding how you will defend a wide receiver in man coverage.
You also have to know where your help is. If you have a safety sitting inside ready to help, then you want to force the wide receiver to the inside where the help is. If your help is over top of you, you can force him either way, but preferably you probably want to force the wide receiver to where your safety is most likely to be in the best position to give you pass coverage help. When all else fails and you are in man on man coverage, always remember to take away the wide receivers inside routes and force him outside. By doing this, you take away the chances of him getting inside of you in man coverage and possibly catching a pass and running away from you for a touchdown. If you force him outside, you only give him one option but if you give him the inside leverage, now he has two options.
Make sure you key the wide receivers hips. He can do all of the faking and false steps he wants to but his hips are going to tell you where he is running to. Wherever he wants to go, his hips have to go in that direction, so just keep your eyes on his hips and make them your primary key.
Now backpedal while keying his hips. If he tries to run by you, then flip your hips and run right beside his hip, while still staying a step behind him. When he makes a cut, drive your feet fast and explosively and get ready to make a play on the ball. Ideally, you want to keep the receiver in front of you and not have to turn and run. But once the receiver starts to break your cushion, you have to turn and run. When you do this, depends on your backpedal speed and how fast you are overall.
Keep your eyes on the receiver until he looks back or is about to catch the ball. When he is about to catch the ball, swat the ball out of his hands, or tackle him and try to knock the ball away from him. If you are in great position to make a play on the football then go for the ball and intercept it.
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, part of being a defensive back includes being beat for a catch or a touchdown. There's no avoiding and the top defensive backs in the NFL get scored on all the time when playing. Its just a part of the game. Therefore, you have to have a short memory and keep playing no matter what happens. If a receiver scores a touchdown on you and you let that affect that your game, then he is likely to have you where he wants you for the rest of the game and possibly score on your again.
These are just a few more tips to remember:
- You have to be physical and have good footwork to successfully cover a wide receiver
- Don't try to over run your receiver. Most good receivers will undercut their route and leave you if you try to overrun them. Just focus on their hips and staying close to it.
- Don't get too aggressive with the receiver. You can be called for pass interference for preventing the receiver from running his route when the ball is in the air.
In conclusion, if you implement these tips then you will become a better defensive back and will find it much easier to play man on man coverage. Once you have mastered playing man on man coverage you will be a more complete and versatile defender.