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Football 101: Have The Seattle Seahawks Created The New "Technique" For Cornerbacks?

Is the typical cornerback changing in the NFL due to teams going with bigger and bigger wide receivers?

Mo can do it.
Mo can do it.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

When we talked about wide receivers with blazing speed in the past, usually it was the shorter wide receivers such as the 5'8" to 6'0" guys. Occasionally there would be a freak of nature like a Randy Moss or a Calvin Johnson, but generally speaking the shorter guys were usually the faster guys.

Corners and running backs are the other positions that are fast. As far as nature goes, I think we would all agree that as you get taller and taller, you will naturally lose speed. Not too many really fast seven foot tall people have been listed in any record books for speed that I am aware of.


So, before we get into more of the article, let's look at 35 of the fastest players in NFL history, at least according to this reference. Keep in mind, this may not be the official list, as I can think of some that need to be on there and this includes electronically-timed results, and hand-timed results, but this will do for getting the comparative numbers of speed, positions, and height.

Here is the table from that link:

Player Position Height 40 Time
Bo Jackson RB 6'1" 4.12
Michael Bennett RB 5'9" 4.13
Alexander Wright WR 6'0" 4.14
Darrell Green WR 5'9" 4.15
Ahman Green RB 6'0" 4.17
Joey Galloway WR 5'11" 4.18
Deion Sanders DB 6'1" 4.21
Kevin Curtis WR 5'11" 4.21
Don Beebe WR 5'11" 4.21
Donte Stallworth WR 6'0" 4.22
Willie Parker RB 5'10" 4.23
Rondel Melendez WR 5'9" 4.24
Chris Johnson RB 5'11" 4.24
Taylor Mays DB 6'3" 4.24
Randy Moss WR 6'4" 4.25
Michael Vick QB 6'0" 4.25
Jerome Mathis WR 5'11" 4.25
Dri Archer RB 5'8" 4.26
Marquise Goodwin WR 5'9" 4.27
Stanford Routt DB 6'1" 4.27
Devin Hester WR 5'10" 4.27
Darren McFadden RB 6'2" 4.27
James Jett WR 5'10" 4.27
Jacoby Ford WR 5'9" 4.27
Trindon Holliday WR 5'5" 4.27
Kevin Williams WR 5'9" 4.28
Champ Bailey DB 6'0" 4.28
CJ Spiller RB 5'11" 4.28
Raghib Ismail WR 5'11" 4.28
Standord Routt DB 6'1" 4.29
Fabian Washington DB 5'11" 4.29
Laveranues Coles WR 5'11" 4.29
James Williams WR 5'10" 4.29
Gaston Green WR 5'10" 4.29
Jay Hinton RB 5'11" 4.29

There was a duplicate name, so please forgive the edit on my part.

And now for the totals:

POS Count Height Count
RB 9 Over 6' 7
WR 19 6'0" 5
DB 6 5'11 10
QB 1 5'10 5
35 5'9 6
Under 5'9" 2

The data tells us that the speed is on the offense where the wide receivers have the most. There are only seven out of 35 that are over six feet tall on that list.

In the past, defenses had a tough time finding guys to play cornerback that could come close to matching the speed of those faster wide receivers.

But over the last several years or so, we have seen more and more teams going to the taller wide receivers that won't necessarily be faster than the corners, but instead can out jump them and are bigger and stronger in order to shed those press corners.

Gradually the defenses have been looking for the taller corners, the guys in the 6'1" to 6'4" range with a little more muscle on them so they can better press the wide outs at the line of scrimmage and re-route them away from their desired path. The thinking being that if the corners can hold them up from getting out in their routes, then it gives the rushers more time to get to the quarterback and it also makes the offense less efficient because a lot of the offensive schemes are based upon timing routes.


Again, one of the advantages of the bigger corners is the ability to use press coverage. In the past sometimes the corners might play outside leverage so as to funnel the receiver towards the middle of the field where the linebackers can apply the wood just as the ball arrives. Remember, the quarterback usually tries to get rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds or sooner so if the DB forces the receiver towards the middle, the defense depends upon the wide receivers catching the ball right where the linebackers are expecting it.

It appears to me that the newer technique is to play inside leverage to keep the wide receiver from going to the middle because often teams will blitz the linebackers and then the hot route for the wide receivers is to go to the spot where the linebacker just vacated. Also by playing inside press leverage, the corner is trying to re-route the receiver towards the sideline where it acts like another defender since once he is forced out of bounds, he becomes less likely to be a threat because he can't be the first one to touch the ball once he comes back in bounds.


The key techniques for the press coverage are to keep your eyes on the receiver's hips, don't turn your hips, get a good punch to his mid-section, and again, don't let him turn you.


You want to have good leverage by moving your outside foot back, just as the offensive lineman needs to have his outside foot back for leverage (see my Football 101 Article titled Offensive Line Techniques in the drop down menu below). This way, when you punch with your inside hand, he won't be able to force you off balance because of the other foot being back to give you leverage. Also, just like an offensive lineman, when you punch, make sure you don't lunge, just fire out your punch without changing your stance or changing your balance.


Once the receiver gets off your press coverage, the next thing is to begin your back-pedal. Your goal is to stay between him and the ball/quarterback and you do this by back-pedaling until he gets even with you. If he gets even with you, you would like to have it be on the outside, so when you turn your hips you want to do it where you can keep him towards the sidelines. Then when the receiver turns to look back for the ball, you reach out to touch him so as to feel if he makes another move, while you turn back towards the quarterback to look for the ball and try to make yourself the receiver. Timing routes can make this technique almost useless, and that is why the press is used to throw off the timing.

For more additional Football 101 on cornerback techniques, I recommend this article here.


There are those that insist that Seattle has decided that they would become very physical, kind of like the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys", thinking that if their normal mode was to play very rough inside the first five yards where contact was legal, then if they happened to go a little past the five yards the refs would let them get away with it. Also, if they got into the playoffs, the refs would be reluctant to blow the whistle on too many plays, and so just as the refs could call holding on almost every play, they don't do it so as to not interrupt the flow of the game.

There are a lot of people who are not Seattle fans who will say that they got away with more than they should have and it seems like the league took notice because the refs have been told to look for more of this physical play and to call it a little closer this year.

Here's what PFT's Mike Florio wrote last month:

A decade ago, the NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding a point of emphasis based in part on complaints from former Colts G.M. Bill Polian that Patriots defensive backs were manhandling Peyton Manning’s pass-catchers.  Now, the NFL is re-emphasizing the point of emphasis.

As explained by FOX’s Mike Pereira on Twitter, a former NFL V.P. of officiating, illegal contact and defensive holding will be a point of emphasis in 2014.

So, I will try to present both sides. First some links that say the Seahawks were guilty of holding more than they were called. Check out this article here.

"The Seahawks were tops in the league in defensive pass interference penalties, and were among the leaders in defensive holding. But as we've learned, penalties probably don't correlate with success one way or the other. Instead, the key might be all those plays that could have been called but weren't."

And here.

And So what’s the secret of the Seattle Seahawks? They cheat.

Not in a Spygate way or with any other secret methods. As explained by Kevin Clark and Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Journal, the Seahawks engage in blatant pass interference on a regular basis, accepting that a penalty will be called from time to time but realizing that the officials won’t call it every time.

"If you think they’re going to be called and expect that to be the solution to the problem, you’re going to be sadly mistaken," former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride told Clark and Clegg.  "They’ve perfected the art."

Gilbride added that the Seahawks engage in pass interference on nearly every passing play.

And here.

The secret to the Broncos' return to the Super Bowl lies on Page 44, within Rule 8, Section 4, Article 3.

It's easy to find next to the picture of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. OK, his mug shot isn't there, but his fingerprints are all over the NFL's "clarification" in the 2014 rule book.

It reads: "Beyond the 5-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender cannot initiate contact with a receiver who is attempting to evade him."

So, no mugging, mauling, pushing and jersey pulling? Will Seattle even field a team this season?

Covering the Seahawks for two weeks during last season's playoffs, their bravado was real and spectacular. They didn't trash talk. They provided warnings to opponents. Seattle excelled with a physical style that tiptoed the line of legality. While miked up during the season, Sherman dared the refs, telling his teammates that if the Seahawks commit interference on every play, they won't get penalized.

It represents a brilliant strategy, not unlike one used by Butler during its Final Four runs and the Knicks in the mid-1990s. Muddy the waters, and force the league's police to clean it up.

There is an old adage that is very appropriate, "Where there is smoke, you will usually find fire", or something like that.

There are so many similar articles out there about the additional holding and mugging if you choose to google, it isn't even funny, there is a lot of smoke. So the logical conclusion for everyone is that it must be true (well, not everyone, because if you're a Seahawks fan you're drinking the green kool aid). For kicks, google this: "seattle seahawks defensive backs holding."

So, to be fair, there is an article that was done by someone that has heard the noise about this, and disagrees with the mountain of evidence so here is his post.

Well there you have it, will the new defensive style of the Seahawks be the new wave, or will the refs new edict squash it this year before it grows anymore?

One thing we might anticipate is due to the fact that the NFL is a copy-cat league, and the fact that the Seahawks use a lot of press coverage, we should see more of it and I hope the Cowboys are among those copy-cats and are paying attention.

And as mentioned above, here is the drop down where you can read the offensive line techniques of leverage and balance.

If you liked it, you know what to do.

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