|Would Ed Reed be too much to ask for?|
(Hint: Not if you're Auburn.)
In the last week, I've broken down the ideal qualities of defensive linemen and linebackers. Now for the defensive backs:
Alignment: Dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility: Outside contain
What should he look like? Cornerbacks come in different shapes and sizes, but one thing to keep in mind with the 4-3 Under defense is that these corners are going to be put on an island a lot. This is no longer a bend-but-then-break defense that utilizes soft zones and eschews man coverage. These cornerbacks need to be up in the receivers' faces, often playing press man coverage. Just like any defense, the strongside corner should be a little more adept at tackling and supporting the run. The weakside corner should have excellent speed and ball skills. Their job will typically be to force the receiver toward the sideline, maintaining inside leverage and forcing the quarterback to thread a ball between the defender and the sideline.
Best physical fits: Troy Woolfolk (strongside; 6'0", 195 lbs.), Courtney Avery (weakside; 5'11", 167 lbs.)
Alignment: Strong side of formation, but dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility: Clean-up
What should he look like? The strong safety is typically the bigger, more physical player of the two safeties. He needs to be able to cover a wide range of athletes, from tight ends to wide receivers. When it comes to run "fits," he's typically the clean-up man. The free safety has responsibility for the weakside A gap, but the strong safety has no such commitment. That means he should be the most reliable tackler of the defensive back group. If anyone gets past the front seven, the strong safety should be fast enough to chase him down and strong enough to halt his progress.
Best physical fit: Carvin Johnson (6'0", 195 lbs.)
Alignment: Weak side of formation, but dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility: A gap or filling the alley
What should he look like? Because of the unique way the 4-3 Under uses the free safety, this position is somewhat different from what many would expect. He is heavily involved in supporting the run, and while he won't have to take on many punishing blockers, he does need to stick his nose up where it doesn't seem to belong. He should have good ball skills and the ability to patrol the middle of the field, because he will often be the deep man in Cover 3 or Man Free coverages. He doesn't need to be the world's best athlete, but he does have to be a very disciplined, fundamental player.
Best physical fit: Marvin Robinson (6'1", 200 lbs.)