When caught in a two-on-one scenario, a defender can ‘jockey’ to make the most out of a desperate situation. In theory, two attackers should beat one defender every time, but their success depends on their angles, depth, and timing. The purpose of a jockey is both to buy time for support to arrive and force the attackers into making an error.
1. It is important that the jockey defender not go beyond the midline of the ball carrier. Moving too early to the outside player, either through impatience on the part of the defender or with a ball fake, is what the ball carrier would prefer. If the defender can manage it, forcing the ball carrier to drift out reduces the width they have to use and makes moving to the outside player easier if the pass is made.
2. Ideally, another defender will arrive to cover the ball carrier, telling the jockey to push out on the free attacker. Even if the defender isn’t quite there, it might still be okay to call for the push if she knows she the pace and space to get to the ball carrier if she dummies and goes.
3. If support isn’t going to arrive, the jockey wants to encourage the ball carrier to pass which can be done subtly with a deliberate slow down (and being ready to snap back into full pace) or subtly with body language that she is going to commit to the ball carrier. The ball carrier passing too early allows the jockey to isolate the outside player. It’s also important to commit intensely at this stage so the outside player cannot pass back inside to the original passer.
4. If at all possible, the jockey should not retreat too much in containing the two attackers, waiting for support to arrive. I have actually seen defenders back up right to the goal line and give up an easy try or get themselves so twisted that the two attackers toyed with them. In such situations, and if the attackers are very skillful at holding their positioning and the pass, it’s probably wiser for the defender to gamble on one or the other. This is a calculated move that’s easier to make if you know you have speedy enough team mates to chase down the one that gets away. If the gamble pays off, your tackle could be incredibly demoralising to the opposition, knowing that they should have scored.