American Football is a team sport played between two teams of 11 players on both sides, where each team attempts to move the ball down the field and score points by either carrying the ball over the opponent’s goal line or kicking it through the opponent's goal posts.

One of the key positions on the field is the cornerback, who plays a crucial role in defense.

A cornerback (CB or DB), also known as a corner or defensive back, is a defensive position in American football.

Usually cornerbacks position themselves on the far sides of the field opposite wide receivers and slot receivers in order to disrupt passing plays. Depending on the coverage called, CBs must change their alignment along with their responsibilities. When in man coverage the cornerback must follow a specific player throughout the play. In zone coverage, CBs must cover a specific area of the field.

What are their responsibilities?

In American football, a cornerback is a defensive player who is responsible for defending against the run and pass plays from the offense. Some of the specific responsibilities of a cornerback include:

  • Covering receivers: A cornerback's primary responsibility is to cover the opposing team's wide receivers, whether it be man-to-man coverage, zone coverage or a combination of both. The cornerback must be able to anticipate the receiver's movements, adjust his position, and prevent the receiver from catching the ball on short passes and long passes alike.

  • Tackling: In addition to coverage, a cornerback must be able to tackle opposing players who catch the ball, or the ball carriers during running plays. Depending on the defense formations, the CB works closely with the strong safety and free safety to form the second and last line of defenses behind the defensive line.

  • Communication: Cornerbacks must communicate with the other defensive players on the field, including linebackers and safeties, to ensure that the coverage scheme is executed correctly.

  • Understanding the opposing offense: Cornerbacks must have a good understanding of the opposing team's offensive scheme, including the routes run by the receivers, the quarterback's tendencies, and the offensive line's blocking schemes.

  • Creating turnovers: Creating turnovers, such as interceptions or forced fumbles, is a critical part of a cornerback's job. This requires good anticipation, quick reflexes, and the ability to read the quarterback's eyes.

  • Special teams: Cornerbacks may also play on special teams, including kickoff and punt coverage. In these roles, they may be responsible for tackling the opposing returner, blocking, or downing the ball inside the opposing team's 20-yard line.

What makes a great cornerback?

A great cornerback in football is a player who possesses a combination of physical, mental, and technical skills that allow them to effectively defend against opposing wide receivers and disrupt the opposing team's passing game. The more athletic a CB, the easier it is to create big plays and force turnovers or stop the offensive drive.

Some key characteristics of a great cornerback include:

  • Speed and agility: A cornerback needs to be quick and agile in order to keep up with fast and elusive wide receivers.

  • Strength and physicality: A cornerback needs to be able to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and be strong enough to compete for jump balls and make tackles.

  • Excellent footwork: A cornerback needs to have precise footwork in order to change direction quickly and maintain good positioning.

  • Strong instincts: A cornerback needs to be able to read the opposing quarterback's eyes and anticipate where the ball is going to be thrown.

  • Good ball skills: A cornerback needs to be able to locate and track the ball in the air, and have the ability to intercept passes or knock them down.

  • Mental toughness: A cornerback needs to have a short memory and be able to bounce back from mistakes, as well as maintain focus and confidence throughout the game.

Famous NFL cornerbacks

  • Deion Sanders: Widely regarded as one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, Deion Sanders earned 8 Pro Bowl selections, 6 First-Team All-Pro selections, and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. He also played Major League Baseball for parts of nine seasons.

  • Richard Sherman: Sherman played college football at Stanford before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In his seven seasons with the Seahawks, Sherman was named to four Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro teams, and was a key part of the team's dominant "Legion of Boom" defense.

  • Champ Bailey: Bailey played 15 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Denver Broncos, and was named to 12 Pro Bowls and seven First-Team All-Pro teams during his career. Bailey was known for his shutdown coverage skills and his ability to intercept passes, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.