How to Beat Press Coverage In Football

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 23, 2024

Press coverage can be very frustrating for receivers, coaches, and quarterbacks. If a receiver does not know how to get off a jam, the play’s timing is instantly disrupted. Beating press coverage is a unique technique that requires skill and quickness.

Press coverage is won by disengaging the defender’s hands and gaining inside or outside leverage to get around the defender. Receivers must be aggressive with their hands and quick with their feet to win at the line of scrimmage against a pressed corner.

Before we learn how to beat press coverage, we must first know what press coverage is. Familiarize yourself with press coverage first here.

In short, press coverage is a way for the defense to disrupt both the quarterback’s and the wide receiver’s timing.

In this series we’ll explore the arsenal of moves each positional group can employ, today we are looking at Wide Receivers and specifically how they can combat press coverage.

How To Beat Press Coverage

Press coverage is one of the most difficult things to beat in football. However, if you have proper technique and you know what to look for, you can make it a lot easier.

The first thing is to make sure that you have the proper stance. If you have an upright stance, you will not get off the line of scrimmage.

Stance

It’s important to have a stance that prepares you to beat the press.

In the video below, you will see how to optimize your stance to get as much speed off the football as possible.

The standard approach is to have the inside foot forward in the stance. Coaches usually teach 80 percent of the receiver’s weight is on his front foot so that once the ball is snapped, the receiver cannot rock back or false step.

With the weight heavily distributed on the front foot, receivers are now able to “roll over” their front foot and get into their route once the ball is snapped by driving the back knee forward and pushing off the ball of his foot.

Here are some more pointers when facing man coverage:

  • Chin over the front knee (strong, forward-leaning stance)
  • Hands at the ready (will need to engage with the DB)
  • Feet are typically about shoulder-width apart, but when facing the press, some coaches will teach to narrow the base of the receiver’s stance
  • Feet must be able to come to parallel (this helps with balance)

Read The Defender

Receivers need to be comfortable when trying to beat press coverage. Press coverage is just a technique, and it can be overcome with proper coaching and drills (preparation).

We like to go through a mental checklist when facing press man coverage.

First, take the time to get into the proper stance and be able to look down the line of scrimmage and to the quarterback.

Second, assess the defensive back and what technique they are showing.

Third, decide on the footwork and hand combat techniques you will be employing to run your route (detailed below)

When the ball is snapped, you should know what move you’re going to be doing. Do not wait until after the ball is snapped.

Uncover your opponent’s offensive and defensive tendencies so you can easily build a game plan.

Inside You’ll Find:

  • Strategies to pick apart defenses
  • How to identify player weaknesses
  • How to save time in your weekly breakdowns

Footwork Before Making Contact

Here is a great visual of wide receivers getting off a release.

This drill is called the “Hallway Drill” from Florida State. It forces players to use different footwork cadences to beat the defensive back playing press coverage.

Beat press coverage with your feet! Once the ball is snapped, the first thing that moves should be the receiver’s back leg driving forward. With the battle between the receiver and the defensive back beginning, below are some of the most common styles of footwork a receiver can engage in:

Foot-Fire Release

While beginning to drive upfield, the receiver’s feet go up and down rapidly to generate movement to get into the stem of the route.

See the video below for releases from a wide receiver.

One-Step Jab

As the receiver begins his route upfield, he will plan to step opposite the route is intended. For example, a receiver would step outside on an inside route and inside on an outside route before making his break

The idea is to have the defensive back turn his hips and shoulders on the wrong stride, which opens up the room for the receiver to run his route

Speed Release

A speed release is a fast, hard outside release to the outside, without any hesitation steps. They are getting into their route as fast as they can.

Hand Combat

The receiver’s hands have to work in unison with their feet. Quick and effective handwork can be the most vital piece of beating press coverage.

Hand combat is essential because if you can beat a defensive back’s hands as they try to jam you, it will more than likely throw them off balance.

The more techniques a wide receiver can use, the better off they will be. A great place to start is with the following:

Hammer Chop

The simplest of techniques a receiver can use. The receiver brings his arms up using one or both arms and slams his forearms down on top of the defensive back’s hands.  

Club and Rip

This move has two steps, much like hand combat used by defensive linemen.

Step 1 is to step toward the opposite side of the direction you want to move toward. As that foot hits the ground, move your opposite arm to club the defensive back hand’s down.

Step 2 is to take your next step toward the direction you want to head and use your opposite arm to rip past the defender.

Also, Note:

A receiver can club and then use a swim move instead of using a “Club and Rip” move.

When “clubbing” a defensive back’s hands, another striking point can be the elbow, as it’s a bigger target

The club move will get the defender off balance and open the window for the secondary move to get separated.

Keep Learning

Playing wide receiver is hard. There is so much to learn about technique, fundamentals, and ball catching.

That’s why we created the Wide Receiver University course. This course has everything you need to know about playing the wide receiver position. Instantly increase your football IQ.

Learn more about wide receivers by reading the articles below.

Learn To Stem & Stack At Wide Receiver

What Is a Slot Receiver Or A Slot Corner?

Why Do Wide Receivers Point At The Sideline?

What Does A Tight End Do In Football?

Why Do Wide Receivers Wear Gloves?

Beating press coverage is a skill that can be developed over time. It takes multiple reps and the ability to know what hand the defender will throw first.

Next, lateral footwork is necessary to shake the defender loose to get by them. Players should consistently work on foot speed and put themselves in situations to beat press coverage. This way, if they face it during the game, they can easily beat it.

What do you think about our tactics to beat press coverage? How do you beat press coverage? How are you being taught/teach your receivers to beat the press? We love learning new ways to beat the press. Let us know in the comments below!

Want to learn more about football and wide receiver-specific articles on how to beat press coverage? Visit our football blog here!

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.

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