Cover Two Corner Techniques Based on Receiver Leverage

By James “Mac” McCleary Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame High School (LA)

Editor’s Note:  Coach McCleary has coached for Notre Dame High School of Acadia Parish, Louisiana for the last 14 years and has been the defensive coordinator for the past 6 years.  During his time as the coordinator, Notre Dame has amassed a record of 73-9.  In his six years as defensive coordinator, Notre Dame has had the opportunity to compete in 3 state championship games. 

In the first article, (click here to view) I discussed how we align ourselves in Cover Two by body position to take away the holes in the field based on the receivers spacing.  In this article we will discuss the reads and techniques we use to accompany these body positions to execute the coverage in a successful way.  With all of our coverage variations, we teach our corners 3 ways to cover; Man Coverage, Cover 2(flat to deep), and Deep (Quarters).

When calling a coverage, the numbers tell the corner what to do.  Example: C-20, Strong Corner play C-2(flats) Weak Corner play C-0(man).

When playing Cover 2 in the middle of field the Corners look at the spacing of the #1 and #2 receivers and line themselves up in one of three body positions.  The corners will press, play choke technique, or play shake technique.

Average Spacing of #1 and #2

If the #1 receiver’s spacing is splitting the numbers and the hash (average spacing), then the corner will press the receiver with outside leverage.


When pressing the receiver, the corners alignment will be 1 ½ to 2 yards off the receiver with inside shoulder on the receivers outside shoulder.  The corner will have a balanced stance with his feet inside his frame.    Any time our corners press we teach them to focus on the hip of the receiver.  Pre snap we instruct the corner to look at the feet of the receiver to see if the inside foot is back or the outside foot is back.  This gives the corner a pre-snap indicator of the receiver’s first step.  With outside leverage, the corner will always take a back and outside step with his outside foot to protect the outside and deny an outside release.  Remember the reason for pressing the receiver is to funnel him to the safety.  We stress footwork first then hands. We are reading the release of the hips as we are moving back and outside.  Once the receiver’s hips commit to the inside our outside, then we proceed to drive our eyes and outside hand to our target.  Our target is the outside breast plate of the receiver.  We want the corner to jam the receiver with his thumb up.  We tell him to make a y with his hand.  If the receiver outside releases, then we flatten him out and redirect him inside.  If the receiver inside releases, then we drive him in a couple of steps and split the zone back out to the flats.  Once we split the zone or deny the outside release and redirect him inside, then our eyes go to the #2 receiver.  When the corner’s eyes go to #2, he looks for him to come outside.  If he does the corner works him flat to deep (rail) by gaining width and depth.  If #2 goes inside, then the corner sits looking for crossers or the back out the backfield.  If #2 goes vertical, then the corner sinks deeper protecting the corner route.

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DB Drill Article – Training Corners to Read the 3-Step Drop

By Doug Langley

Head Coach

Avon Grove High School (PA)

Teaching your corners to read through the 3-step is a must, especially as the high school passing game gets better each season. I’ll start by asking this question: Do you want your corner to be able to react to the QB’s release on the 3-step drop and be able to tackle the hitch as it’s caught or even break it up? I know your answer would be “yes.” You can’t take away everything, but if you could stop it in its tracks you would be happy, right? As you work your coverages according to your game plan you know you’ll complete a hitch or a slant but if you can tackle it or maybe take it away completely, that could change your opponent’s thought process! If you teach your corners to read through the 3-step drop you will be more confident to leave your best corner alone on the backside of trips. You will also be more confident in taking away the 3-step drop when you are not in a Two-deep or in press coverage.

Once the QB is beyond the 3-step drop point the coverage dictates the corner’s drop. I teach the corners to read through the 3-step drop in Quarters coverage and in Cover Three. Teaching them to read through the 3-step drop is something that requires attention to detail but is not difficult to execute if it is taught correctly and consistently practiced.

Pre and Post Snap Technique

To teach the corners properly, you need to start with a good stance and back pedal. If you allow a lazy stance and back pedal, even if the corner gets a good read off the QB, he won’t be able to transition and make a good break.


1. Narrow base; feet under arm pits 2. Outside foot up; toe to instep stagger 3. Weight on balls of feet; soul of shoes have full contact w/ground 4. Bend in waist; pads over toes 5. Bend in knees; hands at knee level 6. Hips square to the line of scrimmage 7. Eyes focused on the QB


1. Controlled backpedal (3 read steps), while keeping the receiver in peripheral vision and reading the QB for an on or off the line of scrimmage read. 2. Upon the release indicators, snap head to receiver, transition (come out of back pedal) and close.

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Winning the Passing Game With Press Technique

By Zach Cunningham

Secondary Coach

Harrisonville (MO) High School

Editor’s Note: Coach Cunningham currently serves as the Secondary Coach at Harrisonville High School in Missouri. This is his 4th season at Harrisonville, and prior to that he served in the same capacity at William Chrisman High School in Independece, Missouri. Coach Cunningham played his college ball at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO. 

I want to first start by thanking X&O Labs for the opportunity to write about Press Technique. I also want to take a quick moment to thank the coaches I have worked with in the past and especially those in the Kansas City area for their experience and support. Lastly I want to thank all of the players that have played for me for their talent and effort throughout the years.

I have spent the past three seasons as the Secondary Coach at Harrisonville High School, which is located outside of Kansas City, MO. On defense we play an attacking 3-4. We blitz 90% of the time, so we are in man-to-man coverage 90% of the time, mostly with no safety help.  Our opponent completion percentage last season (2011) was 28.7% and in 2010 was 32.4%. When we blitz we feel playing man, instead of zone, allows us to dictate what the offense can and cannot do.

There are many benefits of press-man coverage. It disrupts the timing on the routes, and with us blitzing 90% of the time the ball will be out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. We like press-man coverage for three man reasons:

  1. It allows the defense to put more guys in the box.
  2. It closes the space between the receiver and defender, which tightens the window for the quarterback to throw into.
  3.  Wide receivers just don’t like being pressed off the line.


Alignment and stance must be addressed first. Everything in the following report will be discussed out of a Cover-0 look. When we are pressing, we will align with an inside shade (defender’s nose to receiver’s inside ear) (Figure 1). I like to use the nose-to-ear as a starting point because it allows my defenders to have a comfortable base with their feet. Some players are naturally wider and longer than others, and some guys are quicker and more explosive with a wider stance. We want to squeeze the line of scrimmage as much as possible, or get as close to being off-sides as we can if the wide receiver is ‘on’ the line. If he is ‘off’, we will align further away from the line of scrimmage and move inside more than usual. I want our defensive backs in a comfortable stance: knees slightly bent, butt behind, eyes up, arms loose (Figure 2). Putting the butt behind the defender allows more room to keep the receiver in front of the defender. It is going to take more steps and work for the wide out to get behind the defender.



This is where we will win or lose on the route. I like to teach playing press in two phases:

  • 1st phase is the initial contact and the first 3-5 yards of the route.
  • 2nd phase is route progression and playing the ball.

1st Phase:

1st phase is usually won or lost on the line of scrimmage. Many coaches teach the slide step and off-hand jam. I prefer more of an attacking method with a punch/counter-punch (p/cp) into the off-hand jam technique. We are already aligned inside the receiver. I teach this to take the inside away and put the defender between the QB and receiver. When we punch/counter-punch (p/cp) our first step is forward with our inside foot. (See figure 3) . This step is not a big one, it’s more like a 6 inch step with the inside foot forward. Simultaneously we will “punch” our inside hand to the inside chest-plate of the receiver. This takes away the inside and forces the wide out to go one direction. The key to this is to not lunge; but stay balanced with a solid base or risk being out of phase within the first step. The second step will match the release of the receiver (outside or inside). The defender’s other hand will “counter-punch” to either the outside chest-plate (outside release) or shoulder (inside release) (Figures 4-5).

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DB Press Technique: Statistical Analysis Report

The following Statistical Analysis Report is from the Research Report: DB Press Technique.

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