A blue line zigzags across one of the Titans’ practice fields.
It’s a map for defensive backs.
As secondary coach Louie Cioffi drills his players on how best to track a receiver, he wants them resist them temptation to come out of their backpedal too soon.
While things will be different when they work on press coverage more in minicamp and training camp, they’ve worked a lot on more basic geometry at this stage.
Line up seven yards off, and backpedal for seven more. Once you’re 14 yards deep, a receiver will have revealed what he’s going to do, and you’ll be in position to break forward and close or turn and run with him.
In getting that down as habit, the Titans DBs track those blue lines -- the ones that are parallel to the sideline offer the seven yard drop, the 45-degree angle from there is the forward break that puts them back at a spot to drop the seven yards and repeat.
“It’s a very measured distance and it helps them to do it the same way day-in, day-out,” Cioffi said. “It allows them, their bodies, to get used to it, a little muscle memory or whatever you want to call it. It trains them to pedal for those seven yards every time.
“If we backpedal that distance, we feel they’ve got a chance at defending most of the routes that they see. Everywhere that we’ve done this its worked for us.”
Another set of lines help players prepare to cover quick-drop passes.
“It’s the same thing, that allows them to come out of the three-step read and allows them to stay square and come out of their breaks after a pre-determined distance of three yards,” Cioffi said.
And a third set of lines, white ones just out the back of the end zone are for press coverage drops. The defensive backs used them in their voluntary minicamp and will use them throughout training camp and during the season for work on another coverage technique they will use a lot.
Wreh-Wilson said there is a big temptation to break earlier than seven yards and he’s found creating the deeper-drop habit very fruitful.
“If you can stay in a backpedal for seven yards, a lot of action occurs within that 14-yard, 15-yard radius or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “As long as you stay in your pedal, you can stay square and you can read almost any break of your receiver. And if he does close your cushion within then for a vertical route, you know as a player, I’ve got to get out of my pedal and protect the deep route.
“It’s really drilled in the fundamentals of the art of backpedalling. That’s one thing coach Ciofii, coach (Ray) Horton have brought and it’s going to stay consistent. Most routes, curls, comebacks, digs, are going to occur before that 15 yards. If you get to the top of the break, I’ve been trying to drill it, I’m square for my breaks. I can break of either foot and just make more plays.”
Before he concentrated on backpedalling the seven yards, how deep did Wreh-Wilson typically drop before making an initial move?
“It would be like three or four yards,” he said.
I was surprised to learn that DBs are so tempted to stop backpedalling that much earlier than a coach might want.
“Sometimes the receiver shows you something a little different that may make you adjust your backpedal, throws a wrinkle in there" veteran safety George Wilson said. "And sometime you get over anxious, you get impatient and you start to sit on routes, jump the routes. And you can get yourself in trouble by giving up deep balls and stuff like that.
"We’re trying to condition our minds, condition our bodies to be able to put ourselves in better positions.”