The Positions in a Football Secondary – dummies

    the secondary is the name given to the group of players of an American football team that form the defensive backfield. all the players that make up the secondary are called defensive backs, but that category is further divided. Simply put, these players are responsible for preventing the opponent’s receivers from catching the ball. if they miss, they must make the tackle, avoiding a possible touchdown. different players work in slightly different ways.


    The cornerback is usually the fastest of the defensive backs. The ideal NFL cornerback can run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, weighs between 180 and 190 pounds, and is at least 6 feet tall. however, the average nfl cornerback is around 5’10”. while speed and agility are still the necessary commodities, height is becoming a factor in defending the increasing height of today’s wide receivers .

    Reading: What is a secondary in football

    This is the cornerback’s role in two specific types of coverage:

    • cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage: most defensive schemes employ two cornerbacks (cb) in man-to-man coverage against the offensive wide receivers ( ww).

      Cornerbacks line up on the far left and right sides of the line of scrimmage, at least 10-12 yards from their closest teammate (usually a linebacker or defensive end) and facing wide receivers of the offensive. the distance varies depending on where offensive receivers line up. cornerbacks should line up in front of them.

      Most teams try to field their best cornerbacks against the opposition’s best wide receivers. some offensive formations place a team’s two best receivers on the same side of the field, requiring the defense to position its two cornerbacks accordingly, as shown in this figure.

      cornerbacks in zone coverage: If a team’s cornerbacks are smaller and slower than their opponent’s wide receivers, that team generally plays more zone coverage, fearing that fast receivers will expose the athletic weaknesses of his secondary. however, if you have two talented cornerbacks, your team can play more man-to-man coverage.


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      Most defenses employ two security devices: a strong security device and a free security device. they must see and recognize offensive formations and instruct teammates to make any necessary coverage adjustments:

      • strong security: of the two types of securities, the strong security is generally larger, stronger, and slower. coaches often refer to (and judge) their safeties as small linebackers. these players should

        • be above average tacklers

          have the ability to move quickly back and forth to cover a specific area to defend the pass (called going into pass coverage)

          the strong safety typically lines up with the tight end side of the offensive formation (also known as the strong side, hence the name strong safety), and 99 percent of the time , your pass coverage responsibility is to the tight end or a running back coming out of the backfield.

          free safety: generally more athletic and less physical than strong safety. typically positioned 12-15 yards deep and off the line of scrimmage.

          free security needs the following features:

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            the speed to avoid a long touchdown pass.

            the speed and quickness to jump on any long pass that is thrown into the gaps in the field.

            the ability to make instant and astute judgments. Some people say that an excellent free safety can read the quarterback’s eyes, which means he knows where the quarterback is looking to throw the ball.

            capable of covering a wide receiver in man-to-man coverage.

            nickel and dime backs

            some experts try to equate learning the nickel and dime defensive schemes with learning to speak Japanese. not so! it’s all about making changes. when defensive coaches think the offense plans to throw the ball, they replace the bigger, slower linebackers with defensive backs. By substituting defensive backs for linebackers, defensive coaches ensure that faster players, who are more capable of running receivers and making an interception, are on the field.

            • nickel back: the fifth defensive back to enter the game (five players equals five cents).

              dime back: the sixth defensive back to come in is called the dime back. The dime back position got its name because, in essence, two dime backs are on the field at once. And, as you well know, two nickels are equal to one dime.

              The only downside to using a defensive scheme that includes nickel and dime backups is that you weaken your defense against the running game. for example, many modern offenses choose to run the ball in what seem like obvious passing situations because they believe their powerful running backs have a size and strength advantage over smaller defenders after the ball carrier breaks the line of scrimmage .

              The figure below shows a common nickel/dime lineup that has a good success rate against the pass, especially when offenses are stuck in third-and-20 situations. This lineup allows teams to use many different defensive looks. , which helps confuse the quarterback. but this scheme is poor against the run, so the defense must remain alert to the possibility of the offense faking a pass and running the ball instead.

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