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img 9883By Darren Garrigan, Defensive Backs Coach, East Central University

Discover how Coach Garrigan has freed up his corners to play more aggressively downhill in the red zone by backing them off into a press man technique resulting in better success against fades and back shoulder throws alike.

By Darren Garrigan
Defensive Backs Coach
East Central University
Twitter: @collegeDB_coach


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Red zone coverage has its challenges regardless of the coverage technique you use, but after I reviewed our 2012 tape, I was sure that we needed to go back to the drawing board.  I was tired of seeing DB’s get beat on the fade and back shoulder time and time again.  So I asked a variety of offensive coaches what makes things difficult for them in the red zone and their answers were rather consistent.  They said that they struggle with DB’s that sit back and are slow to turn on the receiver’s movement.  They went on to explain that by sitting just past the depth that they like to cut and collisioning the receivers at the point of the cut their timing was impacted and the success rate dropped.

This all brought me to the catch technique, which for us means standing 8-9 yards off the receiver flat footed and ready to collision and react to the receiver as he makes his break.  This forced the receivers to change the way they ran their routes and forced the quarterbacks to wait an additional second before releasing the ball.  We put the concept in early in the year for it’s red zone effectiveness, but we found that as the season went on we had more and more success with it in the field as well.  In the end, we saw far fewer fades because of this concept and we also found that our new alignment positioned us even better to react and attack the underneath concepts like the slants and out routes.

Catch Man Technique

The simplest understanding of catch man is that the DB works to stay put and the receiver would likely make his break in front of the defender between 7-10 yards. If receiver runs a vertical route, the DB will shuffle/slide feet, collision, turn & run. When the DB has more confidence, his pre-snap cushion can be shortened.   We teach our DB’s that by just aligning in the path of a receiver’s stem, they already re-routed the receiver.  Either the receiver runs over the defender, not running his route or he is forced to make his break early, declaring how the DB will play the route.  

Catch Pic 1

Defining the Comfort Zone

When you make it simple and the kids believe, they will perform at a high level. The better the athlete the quicker he will be more confident in using the catch technique.  We work to help them understand that they can be comfortable at this spot / using these techniques even though it seems like they are “getting beat.”  The hardest sell to the players are staying put from depth and breaking on routes once they see it develop. DB’s are used to pedaling and shuffle then making their breaks, but with catch tech they do less and in reality get more results. The DB will have his inside foot up, hips facing the receiver.

Once receiver breaks on quick route, all the they have to do is drive on the route. If they get a vertical route, shuffle/slide their feet, try to collision and run. We did not do much practice drills because they need to see the receiver routes at full speed so we did all practice vs. our offense. We work to help them each establish a comfort zone where they believe completely capable of defending each of these concepts quickly and efficiently.  One way we do that is by allowing the players can change their depth and footwork if they are comfortable with it. The more they have experience with it, the more comfortable they are and can execute it at a higher level.


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  • The difference in stance and eye progression for defensive backs in the open field and in the red zone.
  • How to transition players out of their comfort zone to trust playing a more flat-footed read.
  • Using the “Catch” technique against routes such as the back-shoulder fade, pure vertical fade and adjustments used in the open field.
  • Game and practice cut-ups of the Catch technique and how it applies to all of the following scenarios.

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Like I mentioned before, the catch technique started out to only be in cover 0 and that was because we was bringing pressure and the quarterback had to throw the ball quick. By playing with depth and ball coming out quick, all the DB had to do is drive hard downhill and the outcome would be an interception, pass break-up or a tackle to stop the sticks and all that could be done without a backpedal. We actually got through a whole season without any back pedal really because of the catch, press and shuffle technique. Players will buy in to anything that will help them make plays, so it was an easy sell to them.  



Meet Coach Garrigan:  Darren Garrigan is the defensive backs coach and just finished his 2nd season at East Central University where he mentored 1 All-American, 5 All-Conference and 2 All-Region players. While there, the East Central defenses lead the conference in takeaways back-to-back seasons. Prior to joining the staff at East Central, he coached at Freedom High School in Woodbridge, VA for 2 years. Coach Garrigan has worked over 15 Division one football camps (Including working with Deion Sanders).




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