A cornerback (CB), also known as a corner or defensive back is a defensive player who is placed at the outside of a formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide-receiver. Their job is to prevent passes to the wide-receiver to whom they have been assigned. Good cornerbacks are becoming increasingly useful in modern NFL and a great one can earn 10 million dollars.


A cornerback must be tall, agile and an extremely fast runner. Cornerbacks typically range from 5’9 to 6’2 in height and weigh between 12stone 9lbs and 14 stone. They must be good at reading the opposing quarterback and have lightening fast reactions, as there are different tactics they will need to use depending on the type of offensive play made by the other team. The different skills they must have include back-pedalling, jumping through traffic, man on man coverage, jamming the receiver, intercepting the ball, disrupting passes and open field tackles.

Cornerback defensive plays

Depending on the offensive play made, there are several tactical options open to a cornerback. Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

1. Bump and Run. This is where the cornerback attempts to block the receiver on the line just as play starts. If the cornerback can manage to delay the wide receiver by even a second, this will severely mess up the receiver’s planned route through the field and with any luck his quarterback will not be able to find him. The drawback is that if the receiver does manage to get behind the cornerback, he is likely to be able to make a big play.

2. Man Coverage.
Also known as single coverage, this is where a cornerback directly shadows a single wide receiver, matching him move for move. A cornerback here will typically try to force the wide receiver to the edge of the field, limiting his possibilities for escape.

3. Help Over the Top. This is when the cornerback is assisted by another safety (a defensive back) on his team. Wide receivers can be exceptional individuals, bigger than and faster than a cornerback. It is fairly common for such wide-receivers to be assigned two defensive backs to bring them down.

4. Zone Coverage.
A cornerback may be assigned a specific zone on the field. It is then his job to intercept and deal with any player who enters that zone and he normally ignores anyone outside of that zone. Both linebackers and defense backs are engaged in zone coverage and common tactics come in standard formations known as Cover 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Great Cornerbacks

Willie Brown is considered to have been one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. Born on December the 2nd, 1940 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, he played in 204 games for the Denver Broncos and then the Los Angeles Raiders. In his mammoth career, spanning 15 years he intercepted 54 passes, returning them for a total of two touchdowns and 472 yards. His greatest moment came in Super Bowl XI when he intercepted the ball and ran 75 yards with it to make a winning touchdown.