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Simple Defensive Back Reads for Youth Football

Simple Defensive Back Reads

 When you are in man coverage there are some simple reads your defensive backs can use to determine when a receiver is going to break his pattern off. Most youth football receivers do not have the body control or training of a Jerry Rice and are usually fairly simple to read.

 Most youth football receivers will start to flail their arms as they come into a break. Train your defensive backs to watch for less fluid or jerky arm movements. When the arms start coming above the shoulders or across the body it usually means the receiver is coming into a break and time for the man defender to close his cushion.

 Another simple key is stride length, when a receiver is about to come into a break, he will shorten his stride length quite a bit and often accompany the shortened stride with less fluid arm movements.  

 We like to practice  these reads on one on one individual drills of receivers against defensive backs. Once the kids seem to have a good grasp of these reads, go to a defensive skeleton drill of defensive backs, receivers and running backs set up in your base defense against the typical offensive formations you see. When in man coverage the Corner’s will be reading their keys, a down or reach block means a run read and we are looking for a quick run fit to the gap our defense calls for. When the Corner reads a stalk block, he keeps the receiver at arms length, looks into the backfield to play the ball and get off the block as quickly as he can. When he sees a pass pattern read he looks for several keys including the players arm movement and stride length, based on the pattern read the receiver will close his cushion or open his hips.

copyright 2010 Cisar Management. This article may be republished if this paragraph and link are kept intact. //winningyouthfootball.com

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  1. Mario


    I keep hearing different points on this.. Is it good for the DB’s to back pedal or have the them be at an angel so they can react better?


    1. davecisar

      If your the Reciever is out real wide, tough to have the DBs at a wide angle to the ball, that makes for very easy slants

      We backpedal but respond quickly to down or reach blocks, that is the key getting the DB’s to be able to read and react instinctively to their keys per how you have trained them.

  2. Patrick


    I run the defense (5-3 gap control scheme) for an 8yr old team here in north GA, we are a predominant run league. (maybe 1-2 pass attempts per game by most teams) I am having an extremely hard time teaching my cornerbacks to stay home on running plays, they seem to always want to crash into the backfield. What can I do to effectively solve this seemingly small problem?


    First 2 games we are 1-1 / Game 1: 20-6 W / Game 2: 7-0 L
    (defense plays great other than getting toasted on the outside runs)

    1. davecisar

      It really depends on the run fits and coverage you use. We do LOTS of recognition drills with our Corners. We are a cover 0, man coverage team. For instance- we place a player simulating a TE, CB at 3 X 3 from him. The TE steps down, we agressively run fit- our run fits are different than yours. If the TE reach blocks, the CB run fits. If the TE stalks the CB- the TE approaches lowers his hips, slows down, we have the CB get hands on the TE, outside swim and run fit with outside leverage. If the TE goes out on a pass, we cover. If the TE blocks down and we can see the play is away, we slow play, CBs take 3 small steps back, while continuing to peek through looking for counter/reverse. We do LOTS of recognition in team and in skeleton- with me at QB and my coaches at RBs. Every play I’m faking the boot and spying the backside DE and CB. You have to train it, rep it, then rep it again.


    Remember to work visual reads with the secondary guys and the importance of movement and hand placement to imped the wr’s routs and timing in man coverege an the importance of feet workand when working zone place emohasis on depth and space.


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