There are two forms of press coverages: hard and soft. In a second article, I’ll address soft coverage.
*To note, this is Football 101, so it’s a simple explanation and everything comes with a usually or typically, so insert it in most things written.
The hard press starts at the line of scrimmage. The wide receiver (or tight end) and cornerback face each other with little space between. Once the ball is snapped, the CB has five yards past the LOS to push, slap, and bump the WR/TE, after that it can be called defensive pass interference in the NFL.
CB’s will watch the WR’s hips and keep his feet constantly moving, while shading towards the inside (if needed) because the goal (usually) is to keep the WR from making a break towards the center of the field. If he’s got the inside edge, he’s using his hands to prod, slap, and jam the WR while keeping his inside leverage.
The CB wants to jam his guy towards the outside so it gives his safeties more time to assess the play, makes it a harder throw for the QB, and is easier to push the WR out of bounds if the ball is caught. This is why he’ll often line up on the WR’s inside hip, this helps keep the WR from turning in.
This type of hard press is an absolute route killer, which results in one less open guy. It’s most effective on short routes and why having a good slot cover is imperative. Jax needs D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon to step up because they play a lot of nickel and the slot is key.
Smaller CB’s can struggle against big TE’s if their form isn’t perfect. A CB with long limbs can keep his hands on the WR while maintaining enough space to move and make plays on the ball.
The key to winning this match-up is: the hips don’t lie. CB’s should follow the hips, not the eyes or shoulders of the WR. Only the very best WR/TE can have their hips pointing in one direction and then break off in a another suddenly.
Chad Johnson was one of the best at these agile moves. Julio Jones is among the best at using his strength to break the jam and streak down the field. They are few and far between. This is why WR’s (especially the raw) struggle running routes against seasoned CB’s. Their hips don’t lie.
If this dance lasts past five yards, the CB is no longer jamming his guy anyway he can, he’s now running hip to hip (with some bumps and sneaky slaps) with the receiver. Good press guys will slap the hand as the WR is catching the ball. As long as contact is at the same time, it’s not a flag. This ritual between the two isn’t for the weak, it’s all mind games, athleticism and focus.
CB’s who can back-pedal, shove, bump, herd his guy at the same time and keep an arm free to intercept passes, are ones who often ones who make All-Pro and Pro-Bowls.
The next type of coverage is soft press, which will be covered in a separate article.
This film clip shows Jalen Ramsey as the guy who does it all.