Sabo's Sessions, Brian Poole, Marcus Maye
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

You see it every Sunday, but just how to NFL defensive backs handle switching? We break down Gregg Williams’s New York Jets defense.

Sabo's Sessions

You, that diehard NFL fan, witness it every Sunday. You may not exactly know what you’re witnessing, but it’s there.

Defensive backs need to communicate now, more than ever, thanks to rub principles that have invaded the league over the last two decades. Switching when defending pass requires communication and responsibility. Fortunately, it’s become a bit easier thanks to Nick Saban.

Saban, the then-Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator, had a problem that needed wrestling in the early 1990s. His defense required an extra guy in the box yet he knew his guys weren’t good enough to cover man-to-man (Cover 1). On top of that, when he went Cover 3, four verts would burn him.

Jets Cover 3

Playing three deep against four verts just does not make much sense, so Saban went to work on what would become pattern-match zone. Instead of thinking zone defense as a strict, drop or run to an area-type coverage, reads and responsibilities would creep into every cover man’s thought process.

This way, if four verts happened against a Cover 3, every route would be covered.

Each defensive back has a first and secondary read (at the very least). For instance, the slot cornerback would first read the slot receiver while his second read would be the X or the No. 1 receiver on that side:

Slot CB Reads

The outside corner’s responsibilities will be the exact opposite:

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Maye, McDougle and Davis are going to make plays, can’t wait