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2022 NFL Scouting Combine - How to watch the defensive backs

You open thread for the final day of the Combine

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Tulsa at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And just like that we’re approaching the final day of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. Today we’ll watch the last workouts of the Combine as the cornerbacks and safeties take the field.

DB day is always fun, as these are all incredible athletes and DBs tend to have a lot of personality. The drills can also reveal a lot about the various prospects as well.

The New York Giants defense is set to get a lot more aggressive under Wink Martindale, and Martindale’s defenses demand athletic press-man cover corners and versatile safeties.

We should be watching these workouts closely.

Combine coverage

TV: NFL Network
Streaming: NFL.com, NFL mobile app, Sling, Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, YouTube TV
Time: 2 p.m. to 7 p.m

Measurable events

I mentioned on the first day of the Combine that the wide receivers were one of two groups where all of the athletic testing mattered. This is the other position group where raw athleticism really matters. It isn’t necessary for a DB to be an elite athlete, but there are some techniques and schemes that really do demand it.

  • 40-yard dash - Obviously the speed to keep up with the fastest receivers down the field is important. Likewise, a great 40 time suggests a big range for safeties.
  • 3-cone and Short Shuttle - Defensive backs need to change direction quickly and fluidly, they also need to be able to explode in a new direction.
  • Vertical and Broad jumps - These are important for every position. They’re our best measure for how well a prospect is able to generate power with his lower body. Also, guys need to be able to jump high to match up with receivers high-pointing the ball.
  • Bench press - This is the least-useful event (as Deion Sanders is fond of saying, “I never laid on the ground with Jerry Rice across my chest”), but it’s still useful. Cornerbacks need to have the strength to match up with big receivers in press-man coverage. All defensive backs need to be able to hold up in blocks on the edge in run defense.

Position specific drills

As with the measurable events, all of these drills are important. It can be tough to really focus on a defensive back’s mechanics on tape from the TV angle, so these drills are our chance to look at a players’ feet, ankles, and hips in isolation.

The “Tyrel Austin” drill

The official explanation from when the drill was introduced in 2020.

The drill named after the Steelers secondary coach [now defensive coordinator] includes two parts. First, a player will back pedal 5 yards, then open and break downhill on a 45 degree angle before catching a thrown ball. Then a player will back pedal 5 yards, open at 90 degrees and run to the first coach and break down, then plant and turn around (180 degrees) to run toward a second coach and catch a ball thrown by a QB before reaching the second coach.

This is one of the drills that will help separate the safeties from the corners, and the press-man corners from the zone corners. The prospects who do this drill well will have quick feet, a compact fluid backpedal, and oily hips through a full range of motion.

Slower, stiffer prospects in this drill will likely be safeties at the NFL level.

This is also a good chance for prospects to show off their ball skills.

The “W” drill

I mentioned Deion Sanders above, and he’s mentioned a few times that this is his favorite drill — and for good reason. It sees the prospect drop into a quick backpedal before transitioning to drive forward. He then drops back and drives forward again, with his path describing the letter “W”.

This drill not only shows off a prospect’s feet and how compact their backpedal is, but it’s a great chance to see how a prospect is able to transition from dropping in coverage to driving on the ball. In particular, this drill will test how cleanly a prospect is able to transition — do they need to stop, gather themselves, and change direction, or can they stick their foot in the ground and explode downhill.