A cushion in football is the distance between the receiver and the closest defender. When playing with a cushion defensive backs will line up seven to eight yards away from the line of scrimmage.
In this situation you would say you are giving the receiver a seven or eight yard cushion.
What are the benefits of a cushion as a defensive back?
If he’s even he’s leaving
One of the main reasons why corners leave a cushion is so that they don’t give up the deep ball. If you are playing man coverage you don’t want the receiver to get past you. By allowing your self a cushion you have a bit of a “head start” if the receiver decides to run a go route.
Keep An Eye On The Field
When playing in press coverage it is often hard to look at anything other than the receiver. Though you don’t always want to be cheating with your eyes a cushion can offer you a better sense of what’s going on.
Starting a snap with a cushion may be the difference in you noticing a screen or quick pass developing on your side of the field.
What are the disadvantages of playing with a cushion in football?
Lack Of Physicality
When playing press coverage you are able to engage with the receiver at the line of scrimmage. You will then be able to continue some level of contact until the receiver is five yards down the field. This physical contact can throw the timing off of the route and often kill a play.
When playing with a cushion you will likely be too far off the line to make much contact before the receiver is five yards downfield.
This makes it more difficult to contain the receiver.
The Quick Pass
If playing with a cushion you may find that the opposing team will be able to fire a quick pass out to a receiver. This is a common play if a team has a wide receiver that tends to pick up a lot of YAC.
These quick passes are typically done when cornerbacks are playing with a cushion. This is because a cornerback in press coverage would have a good opportunity to intercept the ball.