Cornerback Play - Need an Education

Submitted by Meeechigan Dan on October 6th, 2010 at 6:26 PM

So, I am watching WolverineHistorian's typically outstanding summary video on YouTube and trying to see if the conventional wisdom on "soft" corner play is accurate. I start grabbing screenshots. What I think as soft corner play, say here... 

...may not be? Is a better definition of soft corner play that, when the ball is snapped, the defender doesn't close if needed? Because what little I could find of Patrick Peterson doesn't show him playing all that much closer to the LOS:

Well, a little closer. So, someone who knows coverage schemes edumacate me. Are these "soft"?

Or is "soft" a nonsense term that really is an indictment of instincts (closing on a short pass, being able to recover if the receiver turns it up field, etc.) rather than cushion?



October 6th, 2010 at 6:53 PM ^

A five-yard cushion is pretty standard.  More than that is considered soft, while less than that is considered tight.  Note, though, that pre-snap alignments don't always predict how the coverage will actually go.  You may see a corner appear to give a big cushion, but he may sprint toward the WR as soon as the ball is snapped.   Also, while tight coverage usually indicates man coverage, sometimes the DBs will drop back immediately into a zone after the snap. 

Generally speaking, if you expect the play to be a downfield pass, you'll want somewhat of a soft cushion, to give the DB a head start and keep the play in front of him.  In the LSU screencap, note that it's third and goal from the 14.  It's very doubtful that the offense will throw a pass short of the goal line in that situation, so Peterson is giving a small cushion.  He'll concede a short pass and defend close to the goal line.   

Conversely, if the DC expects a shorter pass, or a quicker one, he may call for the corner to play tight and (usually) have him bump the WR right after the snap to throw him off his route (that's legal for the first five yards past the line of scrimmage, before the ball has been thrown).  Bump-and-run coverage can be risky; the corner may miss his jam entirely and fall a step behind.  But when it works, you often see the QB throw a pass way off-target, because the WR's route has been screwed up.


October 6th, 2010 at 7:26 PM ^

must protect just that - the corner - and force any outside players inside towards the bulk of the defense on a run or:

act as a barrier between the WR and the QB on a zone or:

cover the WR man to man.

His job is to contain the play inside and prevent run or pass play getting out on the edges where there is scant support.

There is a lot of field - a safety cannot cover both sides of the field - a player in a safety position is a line backer-backer in a sense but he will take an angle and help the corners in some instances.

contra mundum

October 6th, 2010 at 7:21 PM ^

He won't play tight in cover two, because if he gets beat off the line, the window between the safety and the cb is too large and makes for an easy throw by the qb on any route run along the sideline.

the  idea in zone is to close off these windows to make the qb be accurate on his throws.


October 6th, 2010 at 9:50 PM ^

Corners can line up tight and shade the outside to protect the sideline, and bump the receiver toward the middle of the field where the safety is. This takes away quick screens, helps support against outside runs, but leads you vulnerable to the window between the corner and the safety. Shading the outside is meant to lessen this window, though.

contra mundum

October 6th, 2010 at 7:24 PM ^

btw, I think our soft coverage comes as much from early "bail outs" by our corners..turning and running with the wr (or in this case ahead of) instead of staying in a backpedal and allowing the wr to close.


October 6th, 2010 at 8:11 PM ^

Pre-snap alignment means very little.  You could have a guy playing 5 yards off the line of scrimmage who backpedals quickly as soon as the ball is snapped, and that's "soft."  You could also have a guy playing 8 yards off the line of scrimmage who doesn't really take any read steps and waits a second before he moves, and that would be considered "soft" too.

Screenshots don't really tell me whether the corners are playing soft or not.  But I do think Michigan's corners play soft too often, especially James Rogers.  I can't say that I blame him, though, since he's relatively inexperienced out there as a corner.


October 6th, 2010 at 8:27 PM ^

Cover 2 - you want to be 5 yards off the ball and lined up on the inside of the WR and you want to get a smack on him and funnel him to the side lines...once you funnel him to the sidelines you look at the QB and play the flat area...If its a smash you have an inside WR and he does a corner yell smash and help play the corner route


Cover  0 or 1 is usally man to can press him or play 7-8 yards off


Cover 3 - is Deep will want to play any where from 7-10 yards off the ball and play your deep 3rd...anyone that goes into your 3rd is yours and no one must get behind you.


The cushons are all up to the i feel like it is robinsons schemes that are hurting us more than the players play.  How many times did you see the RB flare play wide open...or have the inside WR wide open in the flat...or when the CBs are playing 10 yards off the ball and the WR is wide open on a hitch play or somethin.  Its like he doesnt make any in game changes or fixes. i dont know thats just me.

Meeechigan Dan

October 6th, 2010 at 8:50 PM ^

I have the same sense of frustration without your knowledge. I keep asking football people why we don't risk tighter coverage given that the downside is limited - they score quicker rather than slower and perhaps - just perhaps - we terminate drives. Particularly with a little situational blitzing. In all, shorter enemy possessions, which defeats the idea of keeping Denard off the field.

Yet, I am told repeatedly that we will get burned like toast too often, and I guess we're that bad.


October 6th, 2010 at 11:55 PM ^

I disagree about a hard cover 2 corner.  Generally, the corner will funnel to the inside.  If he funnels outside, he turns his back to the QB and loses anybody coming into his zone.  Also, the receiver and QB and hook up for an easy cover 2 fade.  Thats why you always run double slant against cover 2 and not the slant/arrow combo on the 3 step.  That being said, most teams I played against ran a soft two where the corners would get depth until their flat was threatned. 


October 7th, 2010 at 12:28 AM ^

Until the secondary gets better athletes at corner, this soft cushion you're seeing is going to be a regular sight. Rogers just isn't quick enough to stay with receivers and J.T. Floyd and the rest of the freshman in the secondary just don't have the experience yet to have the right "feel" of how far off they want to be. But with this soft cushion it keeps everything in front of them and eliminates the big play which killed Michigan in years before so that's helpful. Couple more years of training and coaching (and hopefully recruiting)  those corners will start creeping up in coverage.