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Series: Football Basics - Explaining the Cover Two

Discussion in 'American Football' started by SanDiegoRon, Jul 11, 2007.

  1. SanDiegoRon

    SanDiegoRon BoltTalker

    Jan 13, 2006

    By John Harris
    You watch 47 football games a weekend. You read every football publication, chirp on message boards about your team, and talk about the sport 24/7. Even so, you might not necessarily know all the terminology and occasionally get lost in what the announcers are saying. That's fine ... you're not alone.

    The concept of the cover two defense has been around for many years, but it’s been only in the past ten years, since the introduction of the cover two by Tony Dungy in Tampa, that it started to gain popularity in both the NFL and college football. The scheme is simple, really, and when played effectively, with key players at key positions, it’s extremely difficult to move the ball effectively through the air. The key to a cover two defense is to demand accurate, pinpoint accuracy from the opposing quarterback, which is why it’s a perfect scheme against most college quarterbacks.

    The easiest way to think about the cover two is like a zone defense. Two safeties and two corners split the field into two halves, playing those halves equally. That's it.

    Each safety has what is called “deep half responsibility”. The safety aligns 12 to 15 yards from the ball, dependent on offensive formation, down and distance, and opposing game plan. He then ‘roams’ from middle of the field to the sideline on passing downs and “fills in the alley” on running downs.

    Covering an entire half of the field seems difficult against the pass, but with solid linebacker play and a good cornerback ‘jam’ (more on those later), the safeties' job can be relatively easy. Without either one, the safety is going to have no chance to be successful.

    As with most other coverage schemes, the safeties responsibility is to not give up the deep ball – keeping everything in front.

    The corners responsibility is “jam, release and stay in the flat”. A corner in this scheme doesn't have to be a jet with 4.3 wheels (it helps, of course), but he does have to be a guy with good hips and the ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage. Most corners will play from four to five yards off the outside receiver and will adjust if motion comes to his side.

    Once the ball is snapped, the corner must disrupt the receiver coming off the ball, jamming him to the inside, or “funneling” him to the inside. He CANNOT allow the receiver to take a direct route on his pattern or the safety will have too much room to cover, too soon.

    If the corner can “redirect” the receiver inside, the area with which the safety has to cover is now cut down significantly. If the receiver takes an outside release the corner “squeezes” him to the sideline as much as possible, giving the safety time to get “off his hash” to play “on top of him”.

    The corner will then play underneath the receiver until another threat comes into his area, the flat. Once that happens, he will slow down, squat and read the quarterback’s eyes, reacting to a ball thrown in the flat. Good cover two corners can bait QBs by staying underneath the outside receiver as long as possible, knowing that a flat threat is approaching then breaking on the ball before it’s even thrown by the unsuspecting QB. :icon_eek:

    The linebackers are also key to the cover two defense. The dilemma, though, is that linebackers must think to stop the run first, then pass drop. In the cover two, that pass drop, to alleviate some of the pressure on the safeties, has to be at least 12 to 15 yards in depth. (Donnie... :icon_sad: )

    That’s tougher than it seems. So, the quicker the run/pass read by the linebacker, the sooner each one can get to his drop zone, the more difficult it is for a quarterback to throw over their heads. In some cases, strongside linebackers will run with tight ends/inside receivers down the seam to allow the safeties more freedom to play closer to the sideline.

    Offenses will try to beat the cover two in two different areas – the “hole”, behind the corner and in front of the safety; and the aforementioned seam roughly down the hashmark (Gates).

    Throwing the ball into the hole is as tough as it gets, but a receiver who beats the jam easily and gets outside with little resistance gives his QB a bigger hole to throw into and a nightmare for safeties. (tall receivers with hands are an asset :lol: - this is where VJ/Floyd really need to shine)

    Many teams are now trying to use slot receivers to get down the seam to put that safety in a world of hurt, but if the smaller receiver gets bounced around by linebackers, he may never get to a point where he can hurt the deep half playing safety. (would love to see Davis in the slot)

    *** with having a diversity of WR & TE skill sets, it's no wonder why the Bolts eat up cover two... PR is phriquen accurate... 17 days till TC... be there...
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Concudan

    Concudan Meh... Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 5, 2006
  3. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006
    If the fans see the safeties lined up on the hashmarks and equi-distant from the LOS - think Cover 2.
  4. Buttmunch

    Buttmunch Well-Known Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    Ball washer
  5. exodus

    exodus Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2005
    I am a ball watcher, mostly since that's what they show on tv. Did anybody else learn defensive schemes and stuff from Madden??? I am way too much of a weakling to actually play football.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. TheLash

    TheLash Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2006
    the new athlon sports pro football preview has an interesting article on the Cover Two. more on how it developed and why it works. also stuff on why it's become so popular now. fairly interesting read. at least to my never played football outside a schoolyard ***.:football: :turdspuke: :icon_bow: :sci:
  7. BFISA

    BFISA Well-Known Member

    Nov 16, 2005
    Shammie still likesya...sorta :icon_eek: :icon_rofl: :icon_tease:
  8. PowderLove

    PowderLove Former Mod, Current Slacker

    Jul 12, 2007
    Madden helped me learn football schemes.
  9. Shamrock

    Shamrock Well-Known Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    That description fits more of the mold of a straight "cover-2" but is different from the "Tampa-2" version. The MLB is the key difference in the Tampa 2. The MLB gets more of the seam coverage. A fast and athletic MLB like Dungy initially had in Tampa Bay, and Chicago has with Urlacher is what fuels the difference. The MLB will get more depth on his drops, and look to take away the TE from the middle and seam routes.

    The two inherent weaknesses in the cover-2 (and Tampa-2) are the Power running game, because the pure 2 schemes are built for speed, and not for bulk. Good "Power-Oh" offenses can pound and manhandle most Tampa-2 defenses. The old Tampa Bay defense got away with handling that by using the McFarland/Sapp combination of size and speed to plug the middle while still being able to penetrate the gaps. That's why you've seen Dungy try like hell to acquire an "over" tackle these past two years with Simon in '05 and McFarland last year. Chicago had a very good combination with Tommie Harris (under tackle) and Tank Johnson (over tackle).

    The other weakness is the middle zone between the safeties. A good TE kills the Tampa 2, as the MLB is never going to get the drop depth to keep up with a Gates or Gonzalez.

    In the Super Bowl, the Colts - knowing the weakness of the Tampa 2 since they run it - beat the Bears using those two weaknesses in Chicago's D. Indy ran the Power-Oh and worked the middle of the zone all game (with both TE and their slot guy). The Bears, missing Tommie Harris to injury, and having an out of shape Tank Johnson, couldn't get pressure on Manning with just their front four, and had no penetration to disrupt the Power-Ohs.

    Chicago didn't attack the Colts "Tampa 2" defense the same way. It didn't even look like they gameplanned to attack those two primary weaknesses. IMO, it showed that Lovie Smith got seriously outcoached by Dungy, or maybe Smith is just an idiot.
  10. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    Here's to him not wising up in the season opener.


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