Press coverage is a style of pass coverage used by the defense that involves staying very close to the opposing receiver from the first step of the play. This coverage gives the opposing wide receiver no cushion and allows you to initiate physical contact with the receiver as he takes his first step.
Types Of Press Coverage
When it comes to press coverage there are typically two ways a defender will play. The first being the jamming method and the second being the mirroring method.
This method is exactly what it sounds like as it relies on the defensive back to jam the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage. Defensive players are not allowed to make much contact with a receiver once they are five yards downfield. But for those first five yards, you are able to make contact with the receiver so long as you do it legally.
Defenders are allowed to hit the receiver in their chest plate with open palms and not receive a penalty. This allows stronger corners to make contact and hold their opposing receiver at the line of scrimmage.
Just being a second behind the route will often throw the timing of the route off and disrupt the play.
The mirroring method involves starting the play with no cushion and mirroring the steps that the opposing wide receiver takes. Typically when playing with a cushion you will react to the receiver once they make their cut.
With the mirroring method, you are following every step of the player in an attempt to stay as close to them as possible.
Advantages And Disadvantages
Press coverage like any other strategy in football has advantages and disadvantages. This is why it is important to know if this strategy is a strength or a weakness of your team.
You can stop speedsters and deep threat wide receivers. Often times these players rely on the cushion to get to their top speed. By that point they meet the cornerback they are already gone.
With press coverage you can get physical with these receivers which are often of small stature.
This slows the play down and makes it more difficult to gain speed.
You can throw off the timing of the play. We touched on this concept earlier and it is arguably the biggest benefit of press coverage.
Many times wide receivers routes are down to the step. Meaning something like “take five steps forward then hook”.
The five steps are used as a timing mechanism for the quarterback and receiver ot be on the same page. If you are able to jam your receiver effectively those five steps are going to a lot slower than five steps with a cushion.
This throws off the timing of the playmaking it much more difficult for the offense to execute.
You can get beat badly. One issue with press coverage is that is requires you to play quite aggressive. Whether it’s jamming or mirroring you are much more liable to get burnt when starting the play very close to the receiver.
One quick juke off the line or a receiver running right through a jam can leave your defense exposed.
Which Positions Use Press coverage
Press coverage is played almost exclusively by defensive backs. Cornerbacks are the position most likely to play press coverage while safeties also use it as well.
There are some instances in which linebackers play press on tight ends or slot receivers but this is much less common.