Friday, June 26, 2015

Three Characteristics of a Great Defensive Back

  There are many characteristics that are needed to be a great defensive back (DB). Some characteristics are hard, if not impossible to measure (determination, perseverance, and mental toughness). This blog will focus on measurable characteristics that have be tested and shown to be significant. Although there is no one formula, there are certain measurable factors that have been shown to separate great DBs from the rest of the pack; speed, agility, and lower-body power are the recurring characteristics.


Speed has been shown to be a significant characteristic of a great DB.1 Speed is defined as the rate at which one can move from point A to point B. It is important for a DB to be able to run step for step with the fastest athletes on the field. A DB needs speed to be able to defend against a deep pass threat and to stop a run threat by decreasing the time and distance a runner has to make a decision with the ball.


Another defining factor of a great DB is agility. Agility is the ability to quickly reach full speed, decelerate, change direction, and quickly accelerate again while maintaining body control and minimizing a reduction in speed.1 DBs are faced with the challenge of covering wide receivers without knowing where the receivers are headed. Great DBs are able to accelerate and change direction in order to maintain coverage over receivers.

Lower-Body Power

The last characteristic that has been shown to separate good DBs from the great DBs is lower-body power. Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible. Lower-body power, such as in a vertical or horizontal jump, relies on flexion of the ankle, as well as extension of the knee and hip.2 Lower body power affects almost every physical aspect of the game (jumping, tackling, deceleration and acceleration, agility). The more lower-body power a DB has, the more successful they can be.

Although there are many similar characteristics of great DBs, these are three key measurable characteristics that have been shown to be significant indicators of greatness. These characteristics are also skills that can be improved in any DB with proper training and coaching.  

1Sawyer,D., Ostarello, J., Suess, E., Dempsey, M., (2002). Relationship Between Football Playing Ability and Selected Performance Measures. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 16(4).

2Sierer, S.P., Battaglini, C., Mihalik, J., Shields, E., Tmasini, N., (2008). The National Football League Combine: Performance Differences Between Drafted and Non-drafted Players Entering the 2004 and 2005 Drafts. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(1), 6-12.


  1. Nice breakdown on the "key" measurable characteristics for a defensive back. The flexion of the ankle and hip as well as the extension of knee (and hip) are it! Thanks for the info. Totally relates to what we teach at our gym for explosion, speed, and ability to quickly change directions.

  2. Very good insight on specifics young athletes can focus on to improve their performance at this position. The fact that you specify what each skill aids at the position was perfect. I really like how you mentioned early the characteristics that are not able to be measured. This lets these athletes know that it is just as important to be mentally prepared as physically.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog! It gives people an understanding on what needs to be focused on when training to become a defensive back. very Informative!