This football terminology is known by die-hard football fans, but many casual fans do not know its meaning.
To shadow a wide receiver in football means that a cornerback will follow him around the field. Typically a cornerback will play in one spot on the field, usually near one of the sidelines.
When shadowing a wide receiver the cornerback will travel with the wide receiver wherever he lines up. This means if the receiver moves across the formation before the play the cornerback will follow him there.
Why Do Teams Shadow Wide Receivers?
Now that you know what shadowing a wide receiver is you might be wondering why teams do it. Below we are going to break down the top reasons why a cornerback will be instructed to shadow a wide receiver.
Potential Mismatch At Cornerback
One of the main reasons why a team may decide to shadow a wide receiver is becuase of a mismatch at cornerback. Say for example you do not have much depth when it comes to the cornerback position.
Your top corner may be able to cover the receiver effectively but your second-string corner may not have what it takes.
In this situation, you may want to shadow the top wide receiver. This will allow your top corner to provide adequate coverage while your depth corners will cover the second and third receivers.
If not for shadowing you may find the offense will move the receiver around in order to get a favourable matchup against a weaker corner. This is not possible when shadowing as the shadowing corner will follow to top receiver around the field.
The Number One Receiver Is Their Only Weapon
Another reason a team may elect to use a shadow style coverage is when the opposing team only has one real threat.
If the receiving corps of your opponent only has one real weapon then you do not have to worry about locking down all the receivers but rather just one.
In this case, it will make sense to shadow the top receiver with your top corner. This is because time spent covering depth wide receivers is going to be a waste of time.
Not to mention the team will likely be targeting the top receiver now that he has a matchup with a depth cornerback.
Your Cornerback Has Their Number
Another reason a team will shadow a receiver is that the cornerback may be especially effective at shutting this player down. Sometimes defensive players know exactly how to stop an opponent.
If this is the case then using the shadowing method to have that matchup every play can work to your advantage.
By eliminating the teams top receiving threat from the game you will give a huge advantage to the defense.
The most common cases of a corner matchup up would include a fast corner being able to match the speed of a deep ball wide receiver. Or a tall strong corner who has the ability to fight for contested catches against a possession receiver.