Cornerback is one of the most vital positions in football. As the passing game continues to develop and wide receivers continue to get bigger and faster, having a premier corner who can shut down a receiver without help from the safety becomes even more important.
Athough you can't change your height, you can develop the physical skills required to become a lockdown cornerback. Here are some cornerback drills to get you started:
The backpedal is a corner's key movement when covering a wide receiver. The best cornerbacks have a smooth backpedal that looks effortless.
- Stand with a yard line between your feet at one sideline.
- Bend at the knees and hips so that you are in a half-squat with your chest almost parallel to the ground.
- Work across the field from sideline to sideline, but instead of running backward, slide your feet across the surface of the grass or turf.
- Push with the ball of the grounded foot while you reach back with the other foot to gain distance. This will help you react to the wide receiver's movements more quickly.
As you build flexibility in your hips, you will be able to take longer strides in your backpedal. You should backpedal 20 to 30 yards in this drill without drifting away from the yard line.
In the mirror drill, you practice "weaving," or backpedaling at an angle, in order to stay in front of the wide receiver. Weaving is used when a wide receiver begins to veer his route to the inside or outside to gain leverage on the cornerback.
- The technique is the same as in the Backpedal Drill, except now you push yourself to the side slightly.
- Using the same yard line, begin to backpedal straight back as in the previous drill.
- A partner or coach faces you, holding a football. When the coach moves the ball to his left, mirror that movement by weaving to the right as you continue backpedaling.
- When the coach twists the ball all the way to his right side, open your hips slightly and change directions, weaving now to the left.
Watch NFL cornerbacks Devin and Jason McCourty perform their version of the Mirror Drill.
The next stage in the progression—the Turn Drill—begins the same as the first two drills.
- Begin your backpedal using the weave technique to mirror the position of the football your coach is manipulating.
- You must be able to recognize when a receiver is moving too fast for you to keep up with while backpedaling. When this happens, you must turn your body and begin running downfield with the receiver.
- When coach slaps the football, open your hips and turn quickly with as little wasted motion as possible.
- The drill ends with a ten-yard sprint after the turn.
Coaches, here's a tip. Signal your players to begin their turn when they are centered on the yard line. It will be easier to see if they drift to either side in their turn.
Corners must be able to break on short routes and make the interception when possible. The 45-Degree Break drill is ideal for this.
- After a short backpedal (no more than five yards), the coach should cock his arm as if to throw.
- If the throw goes to your left, plant on your right foot and drive forward and to the left at 45 degrees.
- If the throw goes to your right, plant on your left foot and break on the ball to the right.
- Catch the ball, tuck it away, and sprint 10 yards to simulate a return.
Now you can practice your skills against live competition. Use your backpedal, weave, turn, and breaks to shut down your man. It's just you and a wide receiver going head-to-head. You know the ball is coming. It's time to make a play!
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