For most rookie defensive backs the transition to the next level of competition can be daunting. The reason isn’t one most would suspect though. It’s not the vast jump in talent of the opposition. Or even the golden arm of the gunslinger shooting it through the tiniest of windows. The main reason honestly is more of a bad habit, or habits, in most cases.
In my eyes the primary reason for the struggle is aggressive play. The NFL has a much smaller leash on the “hand to hand combat” or “bump zone.” In the NCAA they give a player about 12 yards to jam the receiver. In the NFL you can cut that in half. Many times you will see a young DB, Corner especially, get flagged for interference early and often. In some cases it takes about 5 weeks to adjust or to break the bad habit.
The second “bad habit” has to do with knowing when the cushion is broke. (The cushion is the gap between the receivers belt buckle and the DBs belt buckle). In most cases the cushion is considered broken when the receiver has closed that gap to about 3 yards. In most cases a young DB still hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the game.
Often on a younger secondary you will see them “flip at 5.” The “flip” is when a DB breaks his back pedal and opens his hips. The “flip at 5” is problematic because it shows that the DB still lacks confidence. Remember a cushion is usually considered broken at 3 yards. By flipping early the DB leaves himself susceptible to and under route because of the gap created, but more importantly a double move. MJ Stewart fell victim to this on a few occasions last season.
These two major habits can be broken with good coaching. Fortunately for Tampa Bay they have assembled a great coaching staff. Great in football IQ, but also great in quantity. Having numerous eyes on these young DBs should prove to be fruitful for the Bucs in DC Todd Bowles new defense.
Written by: Mike SeDoris