The author of this article is Coach Darren Garrigan, currently at Texas A&M Commerce. He is one of our Twitter followers that we happened to have a conversation with earlier in the week. He gave his two cents worth on how he would cover a specific technique by a receiver in a video we had posted. We checked out his video on YouTube, the one posted at the end of this article, and we loved what we saw! His DB’s are well coached! We asked him to post this article. Here are the accomplishments of his secondary when he was with East Central University in Oklahoma from 2012 and 2013:

One All American and Five All Conference DB’s in those two years

Team ranked in the top 15 in the NCAA in take-aways, top 25 in interceptions in 2012

Lead the conference (Great American) in take-aways in 2012 & 2013

 Red zone coverage has its challenges regardless of the coverage technique you use, but after I reviewed our 2012 tape, I was sure that we needed to go back to the drawing board.  I was tired of seeing DB’s get beat on the fade and back shoulder throw time and time again.  So I asked a variety of offensive coaches what makes things difficult for them in the red zone and their answers were rather consistent.  They said that they struggle with DB’s that sit back and are slow to turn on the receiver’s movement.  They went on to explain that by sitting just past the depth that they like to cut, and then catching the receivers at the point of the cut, their timing was impacted and the success rate of the throw and catch dropped.

All of this brought me to the catch technique, which for us means standing 8-9 yards off the receiver, flat-footed and ready to collision and react to the receiver as he makes his break.  This forced the receivers to change the way they ran their routes and forced the quarterbacks to wait an additional second before releasing the ball.  We put the concept in early in the year for its red zone effectiveness, but we found that as the season went on, we had more and more success with it in the field as well.  In the end, we saw far fewer fade routes run against us because of this concept and we also used it in all our coverage schemes.

Catch Man Technique

The easiest way to understand catch man is that the DB works to stay put and the receiver will likely make his break in front of the defender between 7-9 yards. If the receiver runs a vertical route, the DB will slide his feet, collision (Re-Set feet), turn & run. When the DB has more confidence, his pre-snap cushion can be shortened. I teach our DB’s that by simply aligning in the path of a receiver’s stem, they’ve already re-routed the receiver.  Either the receiver runs over the defender, not able to effectively run his route, or he is forced to make his break early, declaring how the DB will play the route.   Here is a breakdown of the coaching points for this technique as it applies to different aspects of its execution:

Stance Coaching Points

  • Feet square in red zone
  • Inside Foot up in Open Field


Eye Coaching Points

  • Red-Zone, no reading 3-step, focus only on the WR
  • Open Field, option to read 3-Step

Progression Coaching Points

  • Laterally step to mirror WR if they stem inside or outside
  • Collision WR within the route, turn & run
  • Play the man, then the ball


Alignment Coaching Points

  • Depth Varies: Normal 8-9 Yards. Ball on 10+ (5 Yards or heels on the goal line)
  • Leverage: 1 Yard Inside. If tight spilt, outside leverage
  • Protect your leverage. Do not let WR cross your face
  • Stop inside breaking routes 1st

Defining the Comfort Zone

When you make it simple and the kids believe, they will perform at a high level. The better the athlete the quicker he will become more confident in using the catch technique.  We work to help them understand that they can be comfortable at this spot using these techniques even though it seems like they are “getting beat.”  The hardest sell to the players is staying put from depth and breaking on routes once they see the route develop. DB’s are used to pedaling/shuffle then making their breaks, but with the catch technique they do less and, in reality, get better results. The DB will have his inside foot up, hips facing the receiver.

Once the receiver breaks on a quick route, all they have to do is drive on the route. If they get a vertical route they should slide their feet, try to collision and run. We did not do many practice drills because they really need to see the receiver routes at full speed, so we did all practice vs. our offense. We work to help them each establish a comfort zone whereas they completely believe that they are capable of defending each of these concepts quickly and efficiently.  One way we do that is by allowing the players to change their depth and footwork if they are comfortable with it. The more they have experience with it, the more comfortable they are and can execute the technique at a higher level.

Catch Technique vs. Fade

In goal line situations, we found this concept to be more effective than press man.  The major difference is the DB will absorb the route stem of the receiver from depth. You can effectively play both the quick and deep passing game while still disrupting receiver stems.   I give the option to the kids to read 3-step in the open field but in the red zone they will not read 3-step.  Most of my kids felt more comfortable just reading the receiver because it helped with their eyes.

Perhaps there is no better play to illustrate the importance of eyes than the fade.  We believe that from the off position the receiver is better able to see and believe his eyes, all while maintaining an alignment advantage against the fade.   By playing off, it is almost impossible for the receiver to stack the DB, in turn, tightening the window that the QB has to throw the ball into.   In addition, we have found that the alignment itself discourages the opposition from throwing this route in the first place.

That said, teams will still take the chance as for many, this is their “go-to” play in the red zone.  We believe that since our DB’s eyes are only on the receiver he is able to more quickly identify what the receiver is trying to do. From there, he will slide his feet laterally and most importantly, locate the ball.

It is important to note that when we are in the red zone, we teach the DB to not turn his butt to the sideline and locate ball.   The smaller field has eliminated any time for using this technique.  Instead, we teach our players to turn toward the fading receiver as the DB has a better chance of locating the ball and making a play.  If the DB is in phase with the receiver, he will have a chance to high point and get an interception.  If the DB is out-of-phase, we teach him to play the hands and work up through the arms as the receiver reaches to complete the catch.

CatchTechnique-4 CatchTechnique-5


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Catch Technique vs. Back Shoulder

These days, it seems back shoulder throws have made DB’s lose their confidence because it is successful a high percentage of the time.  Quarterbacks and receivers have become so good at it, it is almost an automatic touchdown.  That said, we feel that our technique gives us a better chance to impact this play because of our alignment.  We tend to have a different angle on the ball and receiver than those who start up in press man.

The key to stopping the back shoulder from the catch man depth is to slide your feet, get collision if you can, and read their inside shoulder.  Then when his inside shoulder disappears, turn to the WR and play the hands. We want our DB’s to stay close to the receiver and feel him. We say put your “face” in it.

Another tip is if the DB is not in position to see the ball, then just play the “pocket”, which is in between the hands, and strip the ball out.  We teach them to only look back if in control of the receiver, then peak and try and get an interception.


Like I mentioned before, the catch technique started out to only be utilized in cover 0 (straight man) and that was because we were bringing pressure and the quarterback had to throw the ball quickly. By playing with depth and the ball coming out quick, all the DB had to do is drive hard downhill and the outcome would be an interception, pass break-up or a tackle to stop the sticks. All that could be done without a backpedal. We actually got through an entire season without really any back pedal because of the catch, press and shuffle technique. Players will buy in to anything that will help them make plays, so it was an easy sell to them.

Here’s some DB highlights from our 2013 year…

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