ITP Glossary: Click and Close

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From Running the Arc to Boundary Corner, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Click and Close

Click and Close is the ability of a defensive back or linebacker to read the flow of action while diagnosing the play and then attacking aggressively.

Plays in the NFL last less than eight seconds. Defenders get less than one second to process the initial offensive movements and another second or two to diagnose the play and begin to get into position. Therefore, reaction time and short-area quickness are crucial in a game measured in yards but fought for in feet.

In evaluating defensive backs, you’ll often hear the phrase “click and close.” This phrase refers to the aspect of reading the game as it unfolds in front of them and the necessary reaction to attack the play. This anticipation is what makes a good cornerback great and a great centerfield free safety even more special. The term is also applicable for off-ball linebackers reading gaps against the run or flow against the pass.

The phrase click and close encapsulates two very different stereotypical molds of football players. The “click” refers to being football smart enough to recognize plays, while the “close” requires athletic ability to actually fly to the ball and cover ground. You can have click without close, and vice versa.

‘Click’ is an informal description of mental processing, which includes everything from reading run or pass, to block or route recognition, to what angles the defender takes to the ball – all from a distance. It begins with the player understanding concepts in the classroom, then transitioning those lessons to the practice field effectively, and finally their ability to take in large amounts of information on the fly and react as they have been taught.

Recognition is fantastic, but if you see it and still cannot get there, you lack the ability to make a play on the ball. So next comes ‘close’, the change of direction. In the NFL, the big impact plays come from those who can transition in and out of cuts, and accelerate through to play to the ball. This requires proper footwork and technique along with athletic traits like short-area quickness and burst (acceleration) to close the distance on the ball.

Take our first example, from the 2014 draft class. Current Charger and former TCU Horned Frog CB Jason Verrett backpedals, pats his feet and when he recognizes the quarterback’s cocked arm reads swing pass to the running back. He charges downhill to make the tackle for loss.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was projected to be a first-round draft pick prior to his injury, and on this play he flashes the click and close ability that made scouts fall in love with him as a prospect in 2015 out of Oregon. He is playing outside corner under this hitch / corner concept. When he hits the top of his pedal and sees the WR releasing over him, he comes off his man and closes to force a near-interception.

Luc Polglaze wrote this entry. Follow Luc on Twitter @LucPolglaze.

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