Under the Headset

There are two schools of thought when it comes to disguising a defense's coverage. The first school of thought is that a secondary should line up the same, or close to the same, as much as possible. The second school of thought is that a defense should always be moving around. The latter is by far the most popular look in football today. Let's break down some X's and O's.

Offenses have so many formations and so many motions now that it is hard to be able to line up in the same look and play sound coverage. If a defense can line up the same way every play it is by far the easiest to do. The moving around before the snap can be difficult because you can get caught out of position and sometimes players will give the coverage away to soon.


I was talking to a former player who is now in the NFL about the coverage in the NFL. I asked him what is the biggest difference between college and the NFL? He stated that the coverage's were basically the same. He stated the speed was not that big of a jump to him. It was all about how the defenses were able to disguise their coverage.


To keep things basic what I am going to do is show what a defense can do if it were to line up the same way every time. This will also be a good time to introduce some coverages here.


First off the defense for our example is going to line up in a four across look. It is called four across due to the fact the corners and safeties are at the same depth.



CB                 FS                                SS                                        CB


   WILL                        MIKE                                 SAM


              DE            DT              DT       DE


WR           T           G         C         G       T       TE                   

                                          QB                                       WR







The first coverage a team could play here is Cover 2. The corners will roll up right before the snap many times and will press the receiver. 





                          FS                                SS                                       



CB      WILL                      MIKE                   SAM               CB


                 DE            DT              DT       DE


WR               T           G         C         G       T           TE                   

                                              QB                                                WR





The safeties have deep halves. The corners play the flats and normally will be very aggressive and physical with the WR's. The Will and the Sam have the curl zones and the Mike has the hook zone.


Let us look at some Cover 3 variations that can be played out of the four across look.

The first one is a basic Cover 3 where the safety rolls to the flat coverage. Many teams call this roll coverage.


CB                                                FS                             CB


                WILL              MIKE             SAM            SS


               DE            DT              DT       DE


WR            T           G         C         G       T           TE                   

                                           QB                                                WR





The corners and the free have deep thirds. The Will and SS play curl to flat zones. The Mike and Sam play the hook to curl zone.


Another variation of Cover 3 is called cloud coverage. What is going to happen here is that the corner is going to play the flats and the SS will have the deep third that the corner had above. Everyone else will play the exact same zones as above.








CB                       FS                                     SS                                             

                    WILL      MIKE        SAM                         CB


                  DE            DT              DT       DE


WR              T           G         C         G       T           TE                   

                                             QB                             WR





The defense could come out and play man coverage also. The corners will man up on the WR's. The safeties will man up depending on what type of blitz occurs. Lets cover a couple man variations here.


The first is the Sam is locked on the TE. This would leave the SS free. This could give you two safeties free to roam the field. This variation occurs when the Sam is not blitzing and the defense feels good about the Sam covering the TE. Also with two safeties being free the SS can help the Sam out with TE.


The other is the SS could be locked on the TE. This would only allow the free safety to be free to roam the field. This typically occurs if the Sam is blitzing. A couple of other reasons this could happen without the Sam blitzing are the Sam and TE are a poor match up for the defense or the defense wants the Sam to be able to play the run.


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