Cover 2 Man
Type of coverage: Combo, two deep zone, man coverage underneath
The combo version of cover 2 zone under is cover 2 man under. Basically there are still the two deep safeties with the linebackers and corners manning up on the receivers. This is called a "combo coverage" because it employs both man and zone techniques. Combo coverages are very useful against young quarterbacks because it’s tough to detect both before and after the snap.
Strengths: Man coverage with help over the top, press coverage, combo coverage (zone and man combo creates confusion)
Weaknesses: Crossing or inside routes, running back/tight end on linebacker mismatches, deep middle, option routes.
Indicators: Again, the two safeties in the middle of the field
are a tip off of a possible type of a two deep (Cover 2) defense. The quarterback
will scan the defense post snap to make sure the defense doesn't roll into a
cover 3 and he can see if it's an underneath zone or man coverage underneath.
The difference between the man under and zone under is primarily evident in
the corner alignment. Unlike in zone, where the corners want to funnel the receivers
inside to prevent them from stretching the safeties apart, in man under the
corners will line up in a bump and run technique with inside positioning on
the receivers and force them to the outside to prevent an inside release. It
is crucial the corners deny the inside release because there is no designated
coverage help on the interior of the defense. The corners will also usually
play much closer to the line of scrimmage than they would in cover 2 zone.
Other Notes: This is a situation where using motion can be very helpful to see how the defense reacts. For instance, if the flanker (wide out to the strong side) goes in motion to line up in a slot position on the weak side and the cornerback follows him, this could indicate man coverage. Whereas if the cornerback stays put on motion, it could indicate the defense is in a zone concept. Motion also allows for natural separation between the corner and receiver should he follow him. We will continue later in this series discussing how motion is helpful to the offense in creating mismatches and stretching the defense.
How to attack this coverage: The basic slant route is effective against any man coverage because there is no designated help to the inside and the receiver will have position on the corner if he gets a good release. In the man under scheme, the tight end and backs can be used to clear out the linebackers to allow for a clear passing lane to the slants. One good rule of thumb is man coverage is always about positioning, and the slant route is one of the best ways to gain leverage on a corner for a low risk pass pattern.
A route to attempt on a squatted (bump and run) corner is a fade route between the he and the deep safety. Most cornerbacks will want to play up tight to the line in man situations and a taller or speedy receiver can take advantage of this. The key to this play is separation for the receiver. For the quarterback it's accurately delivering the ball over the receivers inside shoulder. The quarterback also must have optimum arm strength (which Chad Henne most certainly does). The velocity of the pass is critical as well because a high arched, softly thrown ball is prime to get tipped or intercepted. The tight end option is also one of the best types of routes to call when a defense is mixing zone and man coverage underneath because it is equipped to defeat both. At the snap of the ball the tight end takes an inside release, goes 8 to 10 yards up the field and reads the coverage.
If he reads linebackers dropping into a zone area he will run a basic curl route to the side he has the most room to. The key is for the tight end to read and find the soft spot (vacated area) in zone coverage. If he reads the linebacker covering him man to man he then looks to break away from the defender using a turn in route, either going away from the linebacker or cutting out and going across the linebackers body. The quarterback and tight end then rely upon an eye read. Once the tight end feels he has achieved separation from the linebacker he will look back to the quarterback which signals he is ready to catch the pass. This can be extremely effective with an athletic tight end because short area quickness and speed creates more separation from the linebacker in coverage.
When a team is playing a good amount of cover 2 man under, an offensive coordinator will look to get mismatches with defenders. If the team has a speedy tailback, pass patterns can be used to clear out an area and get the running back one on one with a linebacker in space. However, with a young quarterback like Chad Henne, cover 2 man under is one of the most difficult to pick up and therefore defeat because it can look so much like a cover 2 zone and throw off his reads. Through use of a lot of motion and option routes with Braylon Edwards last season, Chad has become more familiar with using both motion and options routes which are, in my opinion, the two best weapons to sniff out and beat man underneath coverage.
Tomorrow, we will discuss in detail how a quarterback makes his reads both pre and post snap and also introduce the final variation of the cover 2.