Receiver Fundamentals: Defeating a Defensive Back

Create separation and burn past your defenders with the proper technique, the right footwork and effective hand movements this football season.

Nothing irritates a wide receiver quite like having to do the tango with a pressing defensive back and not being able to get past them. That’s because this intense coverage reduces their chances of getting the ball thrown their way. Once you understand the techniques to avoid this dance, however, defeating a defensive back can become second nature.

As a wide receiver, your main focus is to gain enough separation from the defender so that you can give your quarterback a reasonable option without the threat of an incompletion or interception. To gain this ground, Heads Up Football founding member head trainer Chris Merritt suggests that you use your opponent’s coaching against them.

“If you know that their pressing defense calls for them to be tight on the ball and very responsive to your moves, you can better understand your requirements. The main goal when defeating a pressing defender is to get their hips to open. To accomplish this, you need to perform lateral movements and redirection.

To take an outside release, meaning toward the sideline, set your position as recessed as legally possible from the line of scrimmage. Football is a game of inches, and if your defensive back is pressing from the start, you want to give yourself as much ground as possible from the get-go. So, line up in an athletic stance with your inside foot back in order to take that initial inside step more easily.

At the snap of the ball, take a hard step to the inside to open up your defender’s hips. From there, come back and begin to use your hands.

“Where we use our hands now is when we decide to change our direction and come back through,” said Merritt, a 25-year coaching veteran. “We want to slap hands down, swim, rip or do something to get past that defensive back.”

Performing this lateral step and hand slap should be good enough of a juke to get that desired separation to the outside.

To add some uncertainty to your routes and to keep your defender on their toes, sometimes you will have to take two lateral steps and then cut back. For instance, using an inside release, start with your inside foot forward while still recessed off the line as legally possible. On that second step inward, you want to sell the action as hard as you can to really get that defensive back’s hips to open, and then follow through with a clean hand rip to separate and snag the pass.

With these quick steps and hand slaps at your disposal, you could set yourself up for more catches and more success against your opponent. So, cut through defenders like butter this season and leave them tackling air with these press-busting moves.