In Part 1 of What the NFL Looks for in the Safety Position in Football, we looked at the importance of great feet, playing low, transitioning quickly in-and-out of your backpedal, and more.

Let’s finish-up.

Loose hips. Scouts want safeties that can “flip their hips” smoothly; this allows them to change directions, and

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (Image - ICON Sports)

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (Image – ICON Sports)

in-and-out of breaks fast as they react to the opponent.

Body control. When looking for body control, scouts look at your ability to control your body motion even when your momentum is pushing you in an adverse or opposite direction.

Reading keys/key and diagnose. Ability to read your pre-snap reads as well as reading the quarterback, offensive linemen and receivers.

Instincts/quick thinking. NFL-caliber safeties need to have top-notch instincts and reaction speed; the combination helps safeties get to the ball fast.

Instincts also help safeties anticipate their opponents’ next move instead of being caught off-guard, and merely reacting. The split-second difference between anticipating a move and reacting can mean the difference between making a play or getting beat.

Burst. There’s not a single position on the football field where scouts don’t look for explosive players. Safety is no different.

Tackling. Scouts want to see how well you can wrap-up and bring down a ball carrier.

Run support. There’s no room in the NFL for safeties that are liabilities in run coverage. Safeties are often the last line of defense before a play goes all the way for six points. A safety that can’t tackle is one that won’t be in the NFL for long, if he makes it there at all.

Man-to-man/pass coverage skills. Safeties that are able cover a receiver by themselves are extremely valuable.


Ability to ward-off blockers. You need to be able to avoid blockers using your speed, quickness, your hands, or in some instances, all three.

Troy Polamalu does a lot of things well; it’s why he’s arguably the best safety in the league (Ed Reed fans, please don’t throw anything at me).

Notice his body control, how well he moves his body when his momentum is carrying him in the opposite direction.  At about the 0:50 mark in the video, is one of Troy’s most famous plays, where he dives over the linemen on the goal line to tackle Kerry Collins – it doesn’t get much more instinctive than that.

Other attributes observable in below film: loose hips, burst, tackling, run support, pass-coverage skills, and more.

Keep in mind that each team has their own defensive schemes and needs, so each team has their own specific criteria regarding what they look for in a safety.  But if you excel at all, or at least most, of the categories mentioned in this post, you could very-well have what it takes to play safety at the NFL level.

Check back soon, as I’ll share drills you can do to get better at most of these attributes.

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