ITP Glossary: Press Man Technique

The language of football is often confusing: play calls, alignments, techniques, and concepts litter the commentary and writing about the game. Inside the Pylon wants to aid in developing a deeper understanding of the game, so our glossary entries will offer clear explanations and video examples. We hope we can help you enrich your experience watching football.

Press Man Technique

Press Man Technique, also known as “press” for short or “bump and run,” is most commonly employed by cornerbacks. In press man,  a defender lines up close to the line of scrimmage, facing the receiver. This puts him in strong position to defend the short pass – he’s not conceding any ground with a cushion, and he can hit or “jam” the receiver within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, preventing the receiver from getting into his route and disrupting the timing of the passing offense.

Teams that use a lot of press coverage look for physical, long-armed cornerbacks who can suffocate receivers with their jams. Press corners also need enough straight-line speed to stay with deep routes, since they don’t have a cushion to help them. However, they don’t need as much lateral quickness as in some other coverage schemes, as they can use physical play at the line of scrimmage to impede short routes rather than having to react to cuts in space. The technique required differs quite a bit from off-man; rarely do press corners backpedal, though proper footwork to jam, shuffle, bail, and run is still critical.

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Richard Sherman (#25) of the Seattle Seahawks, the best press corner in the game today, lines up in the slot against the St. Louis Rams’ Tavon Austin (#11). Austin is a 5’8” waterbug with superb speed and quickness, exactly the kind of player that one might expect Sherman to struggle with. But Sherman gets a good jam at the line and prevents Austin from making a sharp cut. He’s then able to make a play on the ball and knock the pass away:

Marcus-Peters-press-coverage-against-Jaelen-Strong

Kansas City Chiefs first round pick, and former University of Washington CB Marcus Peters (#21) lines up against Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong (#21), a third-round pick of the Houston Texans in the 2015 draft. On 3rd-and-9, Strong tries a fade route, releasing outside against the press. Peters shows crisp footwork with little wasted motion, shuffling to run with Strong up the sideline and then turning to react to the ball. He also times his jam well, hitting Strong with two arms and eliminating the space between him and the receiver.

Since the defender doesn’t give any cushion in press man coverage, offenses will often attack the press with deep streak routes. If the cornerback fails to get a good jam at the line of scrimmage, the technique is vulnerable to big plays, such as in this long Jordy Nelson (#87) touchdown against Bradley Fletcher (#24):

Jordy-Nelson-26-yard-touchdown-against-Fletcher

Offenses will also attempt to defeat press coverage by running “rub” routes, where receivers cross in an effort to “pick” off the covering defensive backs. Because of the congestion of bodies near the line of scrimmage, it’s easy for press defenders to accidentally run into offensive players or each other, setting receivers up for big gains:

Trae-Waynes-picked-by-Oregon

Oregon’s Darren Carrington (#7, at the top of the screen) goes in motion toward the middle of the field, and Michigan State’s Trae Waynes (#15, at the top of the screen), in press man-to-man, follows him. He ends up colliding with the tight end running a seam route and Carrington springs open for a 64-yard reception.

Press coverage also suffers from a lack of disguise; by lining the cornerbacks up close to the line of scrimmage, it declares the defense’s intentions. It can also suffer against the run, as cornerbacks often have their backs to the line of scrimmage and may not be in a position to provide run support.

The ITP Glossary is curated by Mark Brown. Dave Archibald and Mark Schofield also contributed to this entry.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.

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