Rookie Scouting Portfolio writer David Igono shows why skyscraper construction workers and cornerbacks like LSU’s Greedy Williams have vital traits in common.
Have you ever seen the old black and white photos of construction workers eating lunch on a steel beam of a skyscraper? As a kid I thought those guys were the most confident guys on the planet.
How did they not slip or at least not look down? I imagine it took hours of technique, balance and small mistakes.
On the spectrum of confidence required for a job, defensive backs—especially cornerbacks—are not far off. In terms of cornerback play, Greedy Williams is on a beam suspended above the city and tossing Cheeto puffs into his mouth like he’s on a lounger in his living room.
The talented cover corner from LSU should see his stock rise this season. Like any defensive back prospect, he still has room for growth, particularly in press man coverage.
Press coverage isn’t based solely on athleticism. Good defensive backs leverage their technique to level the playing field against a receiver who knows where he wants to go.
A general press coverage rule of thumb at the line of scrimmage is that whichever hand you initiate contact with, you open the opposite hip. In this manner, a cornerback is able to match the movements of the receiver without crossing his feet.
It is imperative that contact is proactive from the defensive back or else he’s just buckled his safety harness for a roller coaster ride that is unpredictable at best.
In the following clip, Williams (top right) initiates the press with his right hand because the receiver is trying to get outside of Williams and up the sideline. Williams opens his left hip and is able to maintain superior route leverage on the wideout with clean hand placement.
When the hand opposite hip rule is violated (bottom right), whatever separation is created at the line of scrimmage is only amplified while the defensive back attempts to recover.
In the last exposure, Williams threw his right hand and opened up right hip — essentially opening the gate for the Auburn receiver to run downfield with Williams resigned to a trail position. Although he has safety help, he still gives up a big play downfield because he used the wrong hand and hip at the line of scrimmage.
Too often, speed and athleticism are referenced as the platform that allows a defensive secondary player to shine when the opposite is consistently truer. Yes, speed and athleticism are prerequisites for one of the toughest assignments on the field, but technique and accurate perception of the situation is also vital.
When you combine athleticism with consistent technique defensive backs can marginalize a receiver. One technical mistake however can be disastrous. Confidence in press coverage is fostered with familiarity with one’s physical strengths and awareness of where danger truly lies.
Williams is not far from realizing his potential in this aspect of coverage if he continues working on using the correct hand and hip combination.
David Igono is a former defensive back who played at West Virginia University and a couple of seasons of arena football. Follow him at @d1gono.