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I Evaluate Each Position By Bill Walsh PSX Draft Insider Special Coaches and scouts all have their

own criteria for evaluating players. These criteria change as the game evolves and they differ dependent upon the needs or systems of respective teams. But there will always be certain, basic requirements for players at each position. Still, evaluating players is not a science. It must take into account a myriad of factors and, in the final analysis, must answer one critical question -- can this man perform on my team? Requirements vary greatly by position, so here are some of the criteria and considerations I use when evaluating players at each position. CENTER Ideal size: 6-2, 290 The center is typically the key man in making line calls. Those calls are vital and there is no way you can do without them. With the constant changes in defenses there has to be communication on your offensive line and obviously your center is the man to do it. There have been teams who use a guard because the guard was either more experienced or more adept in doing it. But typically the center makes these calls. So the center must have command of the offensive line blocking system and of the game plan and of the individual players defensively they are facing. He must be able to do all that. Centers don't often have to block one-on-one with the nose tackle, but if they can it is a great advantage. You typically slide a lineman or find a way to help the center. Or he finds a way to help someone else. Now if you have a center who can isolate one-on-one with a nose tackle, it takes tremendous pressure off your guards and everyone else. Dwight Stephenson who had a short, great career with Miami, was one like that. Mike Webster, who had a long, distinguished career with Pittsburgh, was one of the best. Many people believe that a shorter center is better. Again you must have girth, maybe less than the other linemen. Being shorter helps you do a great number of things in a very small area. A big body just becomes a hindrance. It's like a jockey weighing more than 150 pounds. You need a center who is so quick that he can move in between people. Shorter guys can do that better than taller, rangy guys. GUARD Ideal size: 6-3, 300 The guard is going to have to be styled with the system of offense you have or the offense must be styled as to who the guards are. Typically, you style your offense in relation to who you have at the guard positions. You have to adapt your style to your guards. Again, the great athletes can do everything -- quickness, agility, explosion, ability to pull and trap and mobility to go inside out on the linebacker. There are those in the game today; Randall McDaniel of Minnesota is that type. He probably plays at no more than 280, but he is an outstanding player in every sense.

As a pass protector, the guard usually can get help. He just has to have enough power not to get knocked back. He will be helped just by the sheer number of people inside. So he can get away with a shortfall as a pass blocker as long as he has the girth so the defensive tackle cannot pick him up and move him. He could be a man who presses 500 pounds and still get moved out of the way very quickly. Guy McIntyre was an example. He was very athletic, but they were able to pick him up and move him. On the other hand, we had a guard named John Ayers who was almost impossible to move although he wasn't as athletic as McIntyre. So that girth and stability and body balance is critical. There is less technique for the guard in pass protection than there is for the tackle. But the guard, on the other hand, is used on many blocking combinations where he must get from point A to point B, pulling through a hole, trapping, pulling on sweeps, coming inside-out on a linebacker blitzing, as Ayers did so effectively against Lawrence Taylor in some epic battles in the early 1980s. So technique, agility and mobility is important for the guard. Teams must adapt what they do to fit the abilities of their guards, even if we are talking about whether something can or cannot be done to the right or left. If the left guard can pull and trap, then you are going to run most things to the right with that left guard pulling. You personalize the guard positions as to what they can do. Typically, one or the other is stronger or weaker in technique or ability to get the job done. OFFENSIVE TACKLE Ideal size: 6-4, 310 Of course, you could have great ones at 330 pounds, but the reality is they play well in spite of being 330. The only value of 330 is they attract the TV cameras. Some of them are not going to be 300, they are always going to be 330 or whatever. But others could be a finely tuned, highly conditioned athlete at 300, but they play at 330 and can still play. So natural body girth for all offensive linemen, especially in how football is played today, is absolutely essential. In the case of a tackle, you add the girth and the strength -- and a lot of strength is added by weight training -- with agility. The agility is utilized in a two-yard square. The skill to move the feet within there is critical. A good part of it can be developed and acquired. But if a man is dead slow on his feet, he can get better, but he will always be limited. You would like long arms that are strong, for leverage. But the timing of the extension, the timing of the block itself, is important. The tackle must have a knack at feeling or knowing where to intersect people. So you are looking for the girth, the agility in a small area, the strength and then skill and technique. It takes a dedicated man to focus on his skills year after year in this position. The offensive tackle, especially in today's football, must be ready for three or four things that can happen. Historically, he had to be ready for only one or two things. Now he must adapt to a linebacker blitzing outside and the man he was expecting to block dropping into pass coverage. He is going to have to be quick enough to identify this and move and adjust. So now he must be extremely wellversed and prepared for the techniques of what will happen to him once the ball is snapped. The nature of this position also requires an inner confidence and natural self control to deal with frustration and, in a football sense, disaster. And then he must recover and function at a high level in 30 or 40 seconds. Some people have a disposition to deal with that so much better than others. TIGHT END

Ideal size: 6-41/2, 245 Requirements for a tight end depend heavily on the system being deployed. It's almost a necessity to find the athlete who best fits your system of football. There are those who believe that a tight end with ballast and strength and girth is key to their offensive system because he has as important a role as a blocker as their is. If the tight end can block a defensive lineman on the edge of the offense, then you automatically have a running game just with that single feature. If the tight end can block those defensive linemen, who are know being placed on tight ends where some years ago they weren't, then the entire offense has a focal point from which to work. That athlete can dominate. He is bigger, stronger and naturally is not going to be as quick and agile as the other type of tight end. So naturally you then fashion your passing game with him in the vicinity of linebackers. With that in mind, he must have soft hands and the ability to absorb a ball as he is being hit. With virtually every pass, he is going to be hit almost simultaneously with the catch. So soft hands, being able to absorb the ball while being hit, is key. This tight end does not need to possess great speed. The 5.0 time in the 40 will get the job done. The shortcoming to that is that he is not going to be able to clear defenders on certain pass patterns to help other people. But that is not that much to give up if you have the blocking. The other extreme would be the Brent Jones type who is a major factor all over the field. He is in a position to go anywhere quickly, across the field, to the outside and down the field. He is going to bring people with him or find openings in defenses. In this case you need the great hands, the body agility and a lot of the characteristics of the wide receiver. But probably more girth because more passes are going to be caught around linebackers and probably even defensive linemen. Now when you get to blocking with this person it will be all technique. He is going to have to develop those techniques that he can use with reasonable effectiveness against defensive linemen and linebackers. His ability to absorb and learn technique is critical because he is not going to be able to play mass against mass. WIDE RECEIVER Ideal size: 6-3, 210 The critical factor at wide receiver in my mind is agility and body control, the ability to change your body position often off the g round in order to get your hands in position to make the catch, ala Cris Carter of Minnesota. He would be the ideal in that respect. That particular characteristic must be there for the receiver to be considered a Pro Bowl or a Hall of Fame player. You must have that to get to the highest tier of play. Secondly is strength. That is somewhat related to girth. You need to power through players. When you are bounced into players you must be able to keep your feet, regain your balance and move into position and continue your pass route. So there has to be a certain amount of strength, as Jerry Rice or John Taylor demonstrated so often with the 49ers. Hands are vital, but you almost have to assume that anyone you are considering is going to have outstanding hands. The difference between players is the agility and strength that was mentioned. That allows them to get into position to make the catch, to use their hands.

We can have drills where the receiver is running under the ball and making great catch after great catch. So people would assume that he has outstanding hands. But in reality, most catches are made with the ball and the defender closing at the same instant and the receiver having to reverse his body into a totally different position, get your hands up and catch the ball and be hit at the same moment. That is the key element in greatness -- agility and strength together. Focus is critical here. The ability to find the ball, focusing on it and isolating it from everything else that's happening. When you are evaluating the tapes, you look for those plays that demonstrate those situations. You make a evaluation tape of those plays. You establish the criteria that you require. Then you have a tape that demonstrates those requirements. Pure speed is helpful, but full-stride speed becomes important. You would like a receiver with the ball in the open field to be able to keep the separation with the closing defenders until he gets over the goal line. He doesn't have to outrun them. He doesn't have to gain ground on them. He just has to get there before they do so he scores. So it doesn't have to be sprinters' speed, but full-stride speed. A good example of that was Mike Quick when he was at Philadelphia. He had just an average 40 time, but once in the open field the long strides gave him the functional speed to stay away or get away from defenders. Dwight Clark, believe it or not, was never caught from behind once he got into full stride. Now he used the field to weave and bend, but he was never caught. And Jerry Rice will never be caught from behind by anyone if they both have the same, basic starting point. Now there have been other people who have been Olympic sprinters who get tangled up and can't get back into full stride quickly enough and somebody just comes up and overwhelms them from out of nowhere. If they catch the ball and there is any contact at all, by the time they get back in running stride, the people have closed on them. Full-stride speed is the key. Coaching becomes a factor in regards to their ability to evade at the line of scrimmage and their ability to read the form of coverage and their ability to change a pattern accordingly. That all comes through coaching, training and their focus in a game. Durability is a factor because they are going to be hit a lot. And they are going to be hit when they are in a vulnerable position at times. And they are going to be hit by much bigger men when they catch a hook pattern against a linebacker. Injuries are key because at this position injuries impair their ability to function at a high level, especially when compared to, say, an offensive lineman who can play damaged. Wide receivers are finely tuned athletes who need to be in top condition to perform well. If they are in any way damaged, it is difficult for them to function at a high level. QUARTERBACK Ideal size: 6-3, 210 To become a great quarterback, there must be instincts and intuition. This is the area that can be the difference between a very solid quarterback and a great quarterback. This isn't an area you can do much with as a coach. You can certainly bring a quarterback up to a competitive standard, but to reach greatness the quarterback must possess that inherently, ala Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon. If throwing a ball were the only aspect of playing quarterback, then this would be an easy position to evaluate. However, because of the dynamic role he plays on the team, a quarterback must have

physical, mental, emotional and instinctive traits that go well beyond the mere ability to pass a football. Still, if he can't pass, he obviously won't be a good quarterback either. For now, let's assume our quarterback candidate has shown an ability to throw the ball. Now, he must be courageous and intensely competitive. He will be the one on the field who is running the team. His teammates must believe in him or it may not matter how much physical ability he has. If he is courageous and intensely competitive, then other players will know and respect that. This will be a foundation for becoming a leader. Naturally, he will have to perform up to certain physical standards to maintain that respect and become a leader. Arm strength is somewhat misleading. Some players can throw 80 yards, but they aren't good passers. Good passing has to do with accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with touch so it is catchable. This all involves understanding a system, the receivers in the system, and having great anticipation. It is a plus to be able to throw a ball on a line for 35 yards, but not if it is off target or arrives in such a way that it is difficult to catch. Remember, the goal of passing a ball is to make sure it is caught ... by your intended receiver. You look at how complete an inventory of throws a quarterback possesses -- from screen passes to timed short passes to medium range passes and down the field throws. This complete range. For the scout, not having a complete inventory does not eliminate the quarterback. But you are looking to evaluate in all facets and distances and types of passes in throwing the ball. There have been quarterbacks of greatness, Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who didn't have a complete inventory of passes. But you're looking to see the potential of the quarterback in each area. You can see where the emphasis of the offense would be if he were with your team. A quick delivery , one that is not telegraphed to help the defense, gives the quarterback an advantage when he finds his intended target. That's when it is essential to get the ball "up and gone'' with no wasted motion. Some of this can be acquired by learning proper technique. But to a certain degree, a quick release is related to a quarterback's reaction time between spotting his receiver and getting the ball "up and gone.'' Touch is important, especially in a medium range passing game. One of Joe Montana's most remarkable skills was putting the right touch on a pass so that it was easily catchable by a receiver, who often did not have to break stride. The ability to read defenses is not something that players have learned to a high degree coming out of college. Even if they have, the pro defenses are very different. But most systems require quarterbacks to look at primary and secondary receivers, usually based on the defense that confronts him. You can see if he locates that secondary receiver -- or maybe even an emergency outlet receiver -- with ease or with a sense of urgency. This should work like a natural progression, not a situation where it's -- "Oh, my gosh, now I must look over here ... no, over there.'' You can see which quarterbacks handle these situations with grace. These are the types who have a chance to perform with consistency in the NFL. Mobility and an ability to avoid a pass rush are crucial. Some quarterbacks use this mobility within the pocket just enough so they are able to move and pass when they "feel" a rush. But overall quickness and agility can make a remarkable difference. As an example, there were some very quick boxers in

Sugar Ray Leonard's era, but he was quicker than they were and because of that he became a great champ. Quarterbacks must be able to function while injured. The pro season is about twice as long and more punishing than a college season. They are vulnerable to getting hit hard every time they pass. They must be able to avoid being rattled, get up and show they are in control and can continue to lead the offense. The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time. The clock is running down and your team is five points behind. The play that was called has broken down and 22 players are moving in almost unpredictable directions all over the field. This is where the great quarterback uses his experience, vision, mobility and what we will call spontaneous genius. He makes something good happen. This, of course, is what we saw in Joe Montana when he pulled out those dramatic victories for Notre Dame. FULLBACK Ideal size: 6-1, 245 The fullback position parallels the tight end in many ways. It depends on the emphasis of the system of offense and also what type fullback you have available. If you have a devastating blocker, then he, like the great blocking tight end, can be the focal point of the offense. You can direct them at any defender near the line of scrimmage and they can effectively block them a high percentage of the time. So that allows you any number of running combinations in your running game. And in pass protection, if they are stout enough they can, if necessary, occasionally take on a defensive lineman. That could be either as a replacement block or to clean up on people. So ballast is important. Strength, girth and ballast. For that blocking-type fullback, speed is not a major factor. You'd like to have him under 5-flat (in 40 yards) and, typically, 6-1, 250. This type fullback must be able to focus on a specific defender, find him and take him. It could be an inside linebacker, an outside linebacker or a defensive lineman. But he must know how to find him, know how to read what happens and make the play. That means he must be functionally intelligent enough to handle the variables that occur in order to be a consistent blocker. They must have outstanding durability because they probably have more significant contact than anybody else on the field when you consider the velocity of the hits. Play after play a Tom Rathman or a Daryl Johnston would have major contact if you follow him through a game. So durability, girth, strength, the ability to focus and identify and then the ability to take on the best pass rusher -- an outside linebacker or defensive end -- and find a way to take care of him. Then the other area is receiving. If they are adequate receivers, then they can be a functional fullback. As an outlet receiver, releasing last out of the backfield, they often get the ball clear of defenders and have a chance to get a running start at the linebackers who are going to tackle him. Again, Rathman and Johnston are examples. Then there is the other type of fullback. Kind of a halfback playing fullback, like Roger Craig did for the 49ers. In this case, you have to fashion your offense as to what this fullback's skills or talents may be.

The 49ers' greatest team, in 1984, had Craig at fullback and Wendell Tyler at halfback. So this type of athlete is a skilled player. His blocking has to be adequate, just meet minimal standards. Still, he can be the focal point of the offensive firepower because from his position he can be a receiver, ball-carrier go anywhere, as Roger Craig did. He can be a 1,000- yard ball carrier. With this type of athlete, you have to gear your line blocking combinations to accommodate a non-blocking fullback. This limits what you can do in certain ways, but it expands it offensively when he has the ball. Naturally, on occasion there is going to be the great all around fullback. Franco Harris was like that. John L. Williams with Seattle was another like that. HALFBACK Ideal size: Large enough to take punishment. There are obvious talents necessary to play the position, but perhaps the most overlooked is durability and stamina. This player must be nearly as effective in the fourth quarter as he was in the first. You fashion your offense as to the talents of your halfback. Typically, you are looking for the real competitor who is unmoved by the abuse he endures during a game. He is able to focus and concentrate on doing his job every play. He is going to get a lot of abuse and the unexpected is going to happen to him time and time again. Pure running instincts become critical. You just can't play this position without instincts. There has to be an intuitive style and it differs by degree with every running back there is. Without those instincts, as we learned with Terrance Flagler after we spent a No. 1 pick on him, you can't play the position. In practice, Terrance could do everything that you wanted. But in a game, he just wasn't instinctive. So that is critical. Now, if he can block effectively, your offense has much more dimension. As a receiver, you'd like to think he is at least an adept screen-pass receiver. And, by degree, the further down the field he can go and catch the ball, the more dimensional your offense becomes. Even with all these abilities, the most important aspect is probably durability, without which the other talents become of diminished value. You must be able to count on this player if he is a key part of the offensive philosophy. Size requirements vary. Some smaller runners play big, like James Brooks did at under 190 pounds. The key, along with durability, is that when they are hit they should be able to fall forward. Despite the instincts you look for, there should be discipline to get the first four yards within the scheme and then rely on instincts to take it beyond that. Of course there are times when an instinctive back does things on his own early in a play. But when you begin to leave the designed play too often, you are not going to serve the team with consistent gains that the offense must count on. DEFENSIVE TACKLE Ideal size: 6-2, 290 Must have the girth, strength, ballast to hold off the guard, or to step into a tackles' block without being knocked off the line of scrimmage.

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance. You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must. The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. They won't have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability. Dana Stubblefield would be a good example of a guy who can weigh the guard right back to the quarterback. DEFENSIVE END Ideal size: 6-5, 275 Must have explosive movement and the ability to cover ground quickly in three to five yards of space. The ability to get your shoulder past the shoulder of the tackle. This makes for a pass rusher. With that there is quickness because it sets up a lot of other things. Upper body strength, ala Fred Dean, becomes important. Because you can start one way and when the blocker adapts to your move up the field, then you can arm over him or slug him past as Fred would do, and come underneath him. So it takes quickness, in this case, to help make things happen. However, you cannot be turned out -- turned to the outside, away from the play -- on down after down. So you have to have enough girth and technique so you don't get yourself off balance and are turned out play after play by the tackle. That way you cannot recover back inside for running plays when they come your way. So that type of strength is a must. Upper body strength is somewhat different than that of a defensive tackle. The defensive end does not come into contact with an offensive tackle until you often see what happens, or after you set him up. Where the defensive tackle has to do it right at the snap. So it does take hands to use your techniques to get past him. There are those defensive ends who can take a tackle back into the quarterback. They can be just as effective with that as a man who makes spectacular sacks once or twice a game. Something that is not given due credit too often is the player who can take that offensive lineman back to the quarterback. Everybody keeps waiting for the pass rusher to be past somebody and make a move, where in reality you can have an excellent pass rush and not sack anybody. You break his rhythm, force him to move out of the way of his own man. These men are basically the substance of the defensive team. Their ability to put pressure on the quarterback is a focal part of defense. Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman -- these are among the athletes who showed us the abilities needed at this position. INSIDE/MIDDLE LINEBACKER

Ideal size: 6-21/2, 250 The inside linebacker has to be substantial enough to meet blockers coming from any number of angles and not be knocked around the field easily. Instinct is mandatory at this position. He must be able to watch the ball and read the blocking. It's difficult to describe how to look for instinct, but the guys who find a way to get to the football and make the tackle, they probably have it. They cannot avoid a lot of people to get to the ball or they won't get there. If they take the way around somebody to avoid being blocked, then they have, in effect, been blocked. They must be so quick, like Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears. He would get the jump on the blocker. He would meet the blocker before the blocker was ready. Then he would get off the block, or shed the blocker, and then move to the ball almost without wasting a step. With all this aggressive contact, the middle linebacker must have an indestructible body. There have been great hitters who damaged themselves in the process. Your middle linebacker can't be in and out of the game or limping off the field. So it takes a powerful physique with bone girth that allows you to give and take punishment. In pass coverage, the middle linebacker can be protected, as was the case often even with the great Dick Butkus. But there are also linebackers who have been outstanding coverage men in a form, such as Mike Curtis when he played with the old Baltimore Colts and, to a degree, Singletary. Again, as a coaching staff you have the option of how to design your pass coverage around your middle linebacker. If he is a great natural pursuer and clean tackler and can work right through pass blockers and has spontaneous movement that triggers when he makes his reads, then you are quite willing to make a concession in pass coverage. You will adjust to cover for him. Those great instincts are rare and cannot really be taught, so certainly make sure you utilize them if they are available. You can always compensate in some way for pass coverage. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Ideal size: 6-3, 245 There are several types of outside linebackers. I will break them down into the weak outside linebacker, which itself has two categories, and the strong outside linebacker. On the so-called weak side, there are two distinct categories -- the pass rusher and the pursuitcoverage linebacker. There are very few who have a high degree of effectiveness at both. The pass rush type was best defined by Lawrence Taylor during his great years with the New York Giants. He was the greatest. In the 1990s, there has been Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, although his ability against the run isn't on a par with L.T.'s. But the outside linebackers in a pass rush combination of 3-4 style defense have taken the place of the defensive end. There has been a trend away from the 3-4 in the past few years, but these things tend to be cyclical, often dependent upon personnel. But this pass rushing, outside linebacker is going to have help right next to him in the 3-4 defense and he can take latitude in the pass rush. They can work that much harder at beating the offensive tackle at the line of scrimmage with quickness because they do have help. The pass rush combination guy is going to be primarily a pass rusher and then a run defender. He is a zone drop defender. Rarely will he cover man to man because coaches should not ask him to. That profile is of the quickest, fastest, large enough man to play this position. He can sell out as long as he works in relationship with the defensive end in combination.

These pass rushing outside linebackers must have natural gifts, or instincts for dealing with offensive tackles who are up to 100 pounds heavier. Quickness is only part of it. They must know how to use leverage, how to get underneath the larger man's pads and work back toward the quarterback. And he must be strong enough to bounce off blocks and still make the play. The other type of weak outside linebacker would be a combination of a lateral pursuit guy against running plays and man or zone pass coverage. You need an excellent pass coverage and pursuit man. Because he is on the weak side and is not primarily a pass rusher, he must be able to function in space. Yet when he does pursue he can't get knocked around by blockers. He has to have enough strength to go across the face of a lineman to get to the ball. Now we also have the strong side linebacker, who plays opposite the tight end. He should be larger than the weak side outside linebacker, about 6-4, 250. He must have the hands and the range to hold up the tight end and to wade through the fullback, or whoever is blocking, to get to the ball. This strong side linebacker must be able to hold the edge of the defense. He must be able to hold up the tight end. He can meet the fullback's block. He can blitz effectively against running backs attempting to pass protect him. And he can meet the off tackle play of the fullback or the pulling guard. This position is not as common as it once was. Now they are shifting the line so a defensive lineman is over the tight end and the linebacker is stacked behind. But it is still the same type of athlete. He typically plays on the tight end side and he is bigger and stronger. In the past he has not had to be a key coverage guy. But now if he is stacked behind a defensive lineman and protected, he becomes a key coverage man. Even with the changes in philosophy, teams are flopping their outside linebackers. They have a pursuit linebacker and a run defender. CORNERBACK Ideal size: 6-2, 195, but good ones come in all sizes You would prefer a good-sized cornerback, but fortunately they have come in all sizes. Some of the best coverage men have been extremely small and dwarfed by their wide receivers and still were able to cover because of quickness, explosion and anticipation. But the great cornerbacks have been able to play a physical game with receivers. They can bump the receiver on the release, but more important go up for a ball and not be overwhelmed or knocked off the pass by the receiver. Of course, you need quickness and explosion. Full-sprint speed is important, but there have been cornerbacks who have overcome a lack of sprinters' speed and played many years and become Pro Bowl participants. You'd like to think of the cornerback being able to run 40 yards in under 4.5 seconds. He must be able to do the kinds of things receivers do when they go up for a ball. The great cornerbacks have been good against the run, too. These are support people who can take the ball-carrier one-on-one after all the blockers have committed themselves. And among the greatest cornerbacks, there were those who could go underneath a pulling guard and cut him down and obstruct the ball-carrier who is right behind him. Mel Blount of the Steelers in the 1970s was a great all around corner, then Ronnie Lott when he played corner in the early 1980s, and the Raiders may have had one of the best two cornerbacks with all around ability in Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, who were dominant in Super Bowl XVIII.

Ideally , you would like to have the complete corner. But you can find a way to use that cornerback who must tighten up on his receiver and be as physical as he possibly can to take away the receiver's quickness. Donnell Woolford of the Bears is excellent in bump and run, but not quite as outstanding in reacting. Then there are cornerbacks who have the type of quickness, explosion and anticipation that you want them to be able to see the ball thrown and move to it. So even in man to man coverage, they read the quarterback and the receiver and get a jump on the ball. Along with all these physical abilities, the cornerback must be emotionally resilient. He must continue to function after passes have been thrown in his vicinity, or after he has given up a touchdown pass. It takes a totally composed athlete to put aside these types of plays that will be obvious for everybody to see and judge. So they must have an inner confidence, to the point of cockiness, that demonstrates itself. Your rarely get the complete package. Willie Brown, Blount, Haynes, Lott -- those were among the very few who were accomplished at the diverse talents necessary to play this very difficult position. Lott, of course, is the only player ever to make the Pro Bowl at all three defensive back positions, corner, free safety and strong safety. SAFETY Ideal size: Weak --6-2, 200; Strong -- 6-3, 215 According to the system you play there can be a distinct differentiation between the weak and strong safety. In other systems there really isn't a difference and they are given sort of dual responsibilities to play both positions related to the formation. Typically, if you had a choice you would have a weak safety who could cover ground, see the entire field, make a play on the ball high in the air moving right or left, and make all of the audible calls for the secondary. There is probably more audibles called in the secondary than there is for the quarterback in his area at the line of scrimmage. So the weak safety can be the most important field general in the game. Those free safeties who could come up and make a major impact hit and finish off the ball-carrier, were the great ones. There may be situations where the safety has to cover, but there are ways to protect the weak safety. You could put a linebacker on the receiver and the safety just backs him up, for example. The great free, or weak, safeties are ones who had great range. Often they are in the 6-2, 6-3 category at 190 pounds and have excellent speed and range, much like a hurdler in track. They can go for a ball and with excellent hands be a major factor from sideline to sideline. If a weak safety can have this type of range and can cover ground in full stride so he can work either sideline when the ball is in the air, then he can have a great impact on the defense. When you talk about instinct, a natural weak safety is much like the natural running back. If he has the natural instinct to play the game and in a non-verbal sense can respond and react and see things and is not easily fooled, then you have what you are looking for. If you have a weak safety who will make the big hit, the pulverizing hit, and finish off tackles, ala Ronnie Lott, then you really have a weapon. It was Ronnie Lott vs. Eric Dickerson of the Rams in a matchup that fans and media sometimes weren't alert to. But it was Lott finishing off the tackles so Dickerson couldn't break free. Lott would either finish him off while somebody was holding him or Lott

would just meet him right in the hole and stop the play. So that matchup, the weak safety vs. the running back, also can be a significant one. The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher, who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block. It does take a fearless football player to play in the secondary. If he isn't the type who will commit himself physically, then the defense must be adapted. But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody. There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man. So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary. Obviously their abilities must be complementary. There have been excellent examples of this recently, such as the way in which the Cowboys use Deion Sanders at cornerback. He is not expected to make a tackle, yet he may be the best coverage man the game has ever seen. So you adjust your system, and assign your personnel to account for that. http://www.sportsxchange.com/DS97/walsh/walsh2.htm