5 reasons why press man coverage can be effective for your defense

By Brady Grayvold | Posted 11/16/2017

Playing press man is a commitment that takes time to teach, effort in correcting the mistakes (there are a lot of them early on), and confidence in your kids in all situations and against all opponents.

In the two years I have coached the defensive backs in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, our defenses have given up 8.7 points per game, 84.5 passing yards per game, had an opposing team's completion percentage of 40.5 percent, and taken the ball away through interceptions 35 times.

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We have a great mixture of players and much more experienced coaches than myself who are committed to putting our kids in positions to be successful. Through this commitment, we have found there are many positives of playing this technique. Here are the top five advantages of playing press man:

1. Press man allows your athletes to be athletes. In the secondary, we can argue that our most athletic kids are often playing these positions. When we make decisions on who is going to play the corner positions for us, our best athletes are always considered and in the mix.

When playing press man, the job is simple: The guy you are assigned to cover is yours, no matter where he wants to take you on the field. This simple job allows our athletes to be athletes. We give them the techniques necessary to succeed, and allow their talents and abilities to take over.

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Doing this allows our kids to relax and play the game. It eliminates any chance for confusion in the back end of our defense, and allows our corners to do what they do best in covering people. I haven't yet coached a kid who can run a 4.4 40-yard dash. But with great technique and coaching, you can give your best athletes a shot at winning in press man, regardless of straight line speed. You don’t have to be Alabama or Michigan State to play this technique. You can tailor it to the type of players you have.

2. You create confusion for the quarterback pre-snap. One of the biggest advantages of having press man in your arsenal of techniques is that you can give multiple looks to create pre-snap confusion for the quarterback. Creating pre-snap confusion is the goal for every defense from Pop Warner to the NFL.

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What press man allows you to do is stem and move on the edges so the quarterback does not get a read on what coverage you are playing. Showing multiple looks on the edge with our corners and allowing our safeties to move to their landmarks on the snap helps us disguise our coverages.

They can start up, and move back to 6-7 yard depth on the snap, they can stem from a Cover-2 look and move into press, and so on. We don’t want the quarterback to look out on the edge and get a free quick hitter because we are lining up at 6-7 yards every single play. We want to challenge the offense mentally every snap and force them to make tough decisions.

3. You eliminate and disrupt a number of pass concepts. The advantage of playing press man is that you are going to eliminate a variety of route concepts and pass plays. While you certainly are vulnerable to a team that's attempting to throw fades on you all game, if you look at the percentage of fade balls completed compared to a simple 3-step drop, the numbers show why more high school teams should play press man.

In press, we can disrupt these 3-step drop routes such as slants and hitches. It also helps in the quick screen game and deters teams from running bubble, rocket, and “0” routes. Press will also help keep your corners free from getting picked in the open field. Lastly, press allows you instant control of the wide receiver's shoulders in the run game and make plays.

4. It allows your defense to be extremely aggressive. When playing press man, you are going to want to bring pressure. Aligning and having your kids play tight coverage right off the line will not only speed an offense up in its reads and schemes, but it allows your defense to play aggressive knowing the secondary is going to be locked up.

When we press, our corners know the interior defenders are going to be running some sort of stunt that is going to cause that ball to come out quickly. Pressing the wide receivers forces them to think on the line of scrimmage about things like what type of release they are taking, how they are going to get leverage, or what happens if I don’t get off the line. We tell our corners we want to make the wide receivers uncomfortable with how physical we are going to be with them. We want to dictate the tempo as a defense and force the offense to make tough choices.

5. Your corners identify routes more quickly. When you put your guys into a press situation, by the time the wide receiver has attempted to take his release, we can identify the route. We teach our guys how to read a release and understand what routes the wide receiver is attempting to run on you such as a fade vs. dig release and how wide receivers will attempt to leverage you.

This creates items for the kids to watch when studying film, and also allows them to continuously work on getting better at the identification process. Playing off man, kids tend to get bad eyes and get caught staring at “Medusa,” aka the quarterback. When you stare at the quarterback, “Medusa” will freeze you and your man is often running right past you.

Follow Brady Grayvold on Twitter at @CoachGrayvold.

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