ITP Glossary: Catch Man

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From 12 personnel to press man coverage, 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.

Catch Man

Catch man or catch technique is a defensive tactic, generally used by defensive backs, to “catch” or jam the receiver in the open field and disrupt his route. This differs from press man coverage, where the defensive back will jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, in that the defender will align several yards away from the line of scrimmage as in off man coverage. He will allow the receiver to “eat up” the cushion between them and then jam the receiver. The contact disrupts the route’s timing and position. Catch man deceives the offense, as the defender’s alignment suggests a softer off or zone look and the receiver and quarterback might not be expecting the jam.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (#2) of Clemson aligns off Alabama star receiver Calvin Ridley (#3), but as the wideout reaches the top of his stem, Alexander catches him. This prevents the receiver from making a clean cut and disrupts the timing of the play when the quarterback might anticipate Ridley breaking open.

As the play develops, Ridley is able to break free, but the catch technique has already altered the play’s timing and forced the Crimson Tide quarterback into a scramble drill. The defense ultimately forces the quarterback to throw the ball away.

In the NFL, defenders can only jam receivers within the “chuck zone,” five yards from the line of scrimmage. That limits the utility of catch technique, as it can only be used in that area or the referees will flag the defender for illegal contact. In the NCAA, there is no rule for illegal contact, making catch man coverage more viable and prevalent.

Many defenders struggle with catch man coverage. If the defender does not deliver a powerful jam, the receiver may simply run right by him down the field. Reacting to cuts after the jam can pose a challenge for the defensive back, often left flat-footed when delivering the blow.

Jeremy Cash (#16) of the Duke Blue Devils attempts to play catch man technique against Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges (#7). He stays too high in his jam, failing to deliver adequate power, and takes too long to transition from jamming to running with the receiver:

Hodges bursts past Cash and catches a touchdown on a skinny post.

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Dave Archibald wrote this entry. Follow Dave on Twitter @davearchie.

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Video and images courtesy of NFL Game Pass and Draft Breakdown.

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