How To Play Cornerback
The cornerback plays like he's alone on an island - with no excuses if he fails. Learn how to play cornerback like a great defensive playmaker, mastering the techniques used to get yourself an interception.
Step 1: The Coverage
Each defense has two cornerbacks who bookend the squad. Most of the time, the cornerbacks go head-to-head against a wide receiver. This is classic "man-to-man" coverage. The cornerback is "alone on an island" with his receiver and it's up to him to stop a reception.
In "zone" coverage, a cornerback is responsible for a specific section of the field and guards any player in that area. He doesn't go after receivers who leave his zone.
Zone coverage is used to help protect cornerbacks who may be overmatched at their position against superior receivers. He can get help from the other defensive backs and linebackers around him.
Step 2: The Match-Up
A cornerback lines up facing the receiver, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. His hands are in a ready position, while he keeps one eye on the receiver, and the other eye on the ball.
Each quarterback has tells that can give insight into the upcoming play. A good cornerback knows how to read those tells. The cornerback is then set to defend the run, as well as the pass.
Step 3: The Bump and Run
Depending on the play, at the snap of the ball, a cornerback takes steps back to follow the wide receiver or bumps him at the line of scrimmage.
By bumping or "jamming" a wide receiver, a cornerback can alter the timing of a passing play, and slow a wide receiver down.
But that's only legal within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Any further back, and a bump is penalty for illegal use of hands.
Step 4: The Burst
When a play starts, a wide receiver runs straight ahead, and the cornerback has to turn around to follow the receiver. Therefore, it's natural that a cornerback might be a step or two behind the receiver. The cornerback needs a great burst of speed to make a break on the ball and match the receiver stride for stride! Otherwise, he'll get burned.
Like many positions in the sport of football, when you do your job well, no one notices. A great play for a cornerback means that the ball was never thrown his way, because he's successfully covered his man.
If a quarterback is foolish enough to throw to a covered receiver, it's an opportunity to get some glory...
Step 5: Interception!
A pick (or INT) is the crowning achievement of any cornerback. Now the defense is on offense. The ball is live and a player can run it back as far as he can...even to the end zone.