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The Art of Coverage: The Cover 2

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As many (most) of us know, there are a variety of coverages used in the game of football. They range from man, zone, to a combination of the two.

For this thread, I want to focus mainly on the cover 2.

The names imply how many men are deep in the play. In the cover 2, there are two men deep, they split the field and are each responsible for half. In the cover 2, in a basic 4-3 scheme, these two men are the safeties. Generally, in a cover 2, safeties are taught not to let any receivers get behind them. An example of a safety letting a route get behind him is Schweigert in the Hall of Fame game on the play that everyone blamed Tryon for. That was clearly Schweigert's zone.

The cover 2 is a basic 4-3 alignment. The corners are responsible for the flats, which is the area pretty much from the hash to the sideline on their side of the field, but as a coach you really want your corner to be able to cover from the last man on the line of scrimmage to the sideline. The zone is not deep. It's a very shallow zone. It's more of a horizontal zone than a rectangular one.

Since they are responsible for the short portion of the field, pretty much where they line up, corners play up on the receivers and jam them.

To clarify the jam, a jam isn't a straight tackle. You're really not knocking the man down. All you have to do if give them a few good hits to nudge them off their routes.

On top of that, when the corners jam, they want to push their man inside. Why? To deny an outside release. Remember, in the cover 2, the weakspot is going to be just behind the corner and just in front of the safety. If you allow an outside release, the receiver is headed right for that spot on the field. So you want to deny that.

After the jam, the corner then looks to the flats to see if anyone is coming. It could be any combination of routes coming their way from pretty much anyone running a route. a SE on the opposite side of the field could come to their zone on a shallow crossing pattern (drag). Once the corner determines nothing is coming their way, they cautiously creep back to defend against a post corner, a corner, a comeback or anything to the weakspot of the zone scheme. They must keep their eyes on the flats, however, in the case of a delay pass. They are only responsible for that portion of the field, nothing more. Whatever else they do is bonus.

The outside linebackers have hook to curl zones. This area of the field is pretty much where they start out to the hash. It's a bit deeper than the flats, therefore the two zones don't overlap. The backers drop back into coverage, checking for the hook. If they see no hook they immediately widen to the curl zone.

Remember our corner funneling the receiver inside? This is why. They funnel the receiver to the outside linebacker so that he can cut off throwing lanes from the quarterback, thus making the QB either check down or force a throw.

The middle linebackers are in charge of "The Hole" or the middle of the football field. This zone is pretty much exactly where they line up. They are looking for anything coming across the middle that isn't in the hook to curl zone.

This is the basics. There are times when guys have to choose to cover one route or the other because of the offense flooding a specific zone.

The reason I bring this topic up is I've seen alot of people blaming Tryon for that hall of fame game play.

Just because a defensive player lines up directly over an offensive player, doesn't make that man their responsibility. Blitzes can change responsibility, zones make you responsible for an area rather than a receiver, etc.

The cover 2 can be run from formations other than the 4-3, but in its most basic form it is run from the 4-3 :)

I've attached a (bad) diagram of the cover 2.

W=Weakside Backer

S=Strongside Backer

FS=Free Safety

SS=Strong Safety


The elipses are their zones.

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