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Football: The Secondary
The last line of defense in football is the secondary. The secondary covers receivers downfield and tackles running backs who make it past the linebackers. Players in the secondary are generally small, but very fast.
- Pass covering ability
- Cornerback - In a typical defensive formation there are two cornerbacks. Each cornerback plays on a side of the field and covers a wide receiver. They need to be fast and quick to stay with the wide receiver to try and knock down or intercept a pass.
- Safety - There are two safeties on the defense; the strong safety and the free safety. They play the furthest back and inside the cornerbacks. The strong safety often comes forward to help with the run or to cover receivers out of the backfield. The free safety generally plays back and helps out the cornerbacks on deep passes. He may also come up and cover the slot receiver.
- Nickel and dime packages - During passing situations additional cornerbacks may enter the game. When there are five secondary players, this is called a nickel package and the fifth player is the Nickelback. When there are six secondary players, this is a dime package and the sixth player is the dimeback.
- Man-to-man - In man-to-man coverage the defensive player has the responsibility to cover a specific receiver. They will stay with that player no matter where the run on the field.
- Zone - In zone coverage the defensive player covers a certain area of the field. They must defend any receivers and passes inside their area.
One strategy to pass coverage is the bump-and-run. This is where the cornerback will try to block or disrupt the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage. He can only do this within the first 5 yards and cannot hold on to the receiver. The advantage of bump-and-run is that it can slow down and disrupt the timing and route pattern of the receiver. The disadvantage is that, if the receiver can avoid the bump, then he may get by the cornerback for a long play.
One popular defense in the NFL is the Cover 2. This is a type of zone defense where the deep part of the field is divided up into two zones each covered by a safety. Later, Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed it a bit to have the middle linebacker drop back and cover the deep portion of the middle of the field. This defense is called the Tampa 2.
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