New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale loves press-man coverage, but what is that, and why does it matter? Press-man is an alignment where defenders - typically cornerbacks - align on the line of scrimmage, giving the receiver little space to release.
The defender is usually one to two yards away from the wide receiver, like so:
This is Deonte Banks against Rutgers in 2022. Banks frequently aligned in a press - 178 of his 384 pass coverage snaps were from a press alignment. The NFL contact rule allows cornerbacks to initiate and maintain contact at - or before - five yards from the line of scrimmage so long as the receiver has not moved beyond a point that is even with the defender.
There’s a reason why Martindale was ecstatic when the Giants traded up one spot to secure the former Terrapin. Banks has the frame and athletic capability to thrive as a press-man cornerback.
Length, quick/controlled feet, fluid hips, recovery speed, closing burst, body control, discipline, and patience are all traits that translate excellently for press. Not every cornerback has these traits, so many teams do not employ press-man. The alignment is also dangerous if the cornerback’s technique isn’t exercised correctly. Precise footwork and balance are necessities for a good press-man cornerback.
Now, there’s a difference between press and a jam; press is an alignment, jam is an action. Here is Banks’ jam against Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
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As we see with Banks above, starting in the defensive chair with excellent posture is a balanced way to react accordingly. Like most things in football, it always starts with the stance. Active yet disciplined feet and quick reactions are essential.
There are several different types of jams: there’s the two-hand jam, the more safe off-hand jam, or the near-side jam that can easily be exploited by receivers who understand how to release and disengage. The two-hand jam can be risky, for a miss can leave one’s hips locked (like a near-side jam), but a hit results in better control and can eliminate receivers from the play. The Banks play above is a two-hand jam, excellently employed. Here’s an example of an off-hand jam from Banks.
off-hand jam - top of screen
Banks conceded a few steps before realizing the receiver declared outside, which is when he jammed, rode, and stayed on top of the receiver. The jam is an excellent way to disrupt the timing and release of a receiver. Corners should never employ the near-side jam.
Disrupting the timing and release of receivers is critical for defensive success; that’s amplified when the defensive coordinator blitzes at a league-high 39.7% rate. Pressure breaks pipes in a hasty manner.
The quarterback’s internal clock is accelerated as the pressure dial is continuously turned. If receivers are struggling to defeat the jam, then the quarterback’s options are systematically removed. When cornerbacks excel in a press alignment - which naturally restricts the space with receivers - or with their jam, then the defense can get creative with trap coverages that could bait quarterbacks into bad decisions.
Improving the cornerback position was imperative for the Giants this off-season, and they did so in the first round with a press-man defender. Although he only had two interceptions in his college career, his presence disrupting the release package of receivers should lead to more offensive mistakes.
The Giants tied for last in defensive interceptions last season - that has to change! With the additions this offseason, Martindale can be more consistent with his philosophy of dictating to the defense to cause mistakes and keep opposing points off the board.