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Defense Lessons: Cover 2

Reader Jon had a great suggestion. Talking heads talk all the time about different types of defenses. Cover 2, Prevent, Nickel, etc. It seems like we are expected to know these terms. And while some of us do, many of us don’t. So, Jon suggested that we detail what these defenses really mean. I thought it was a great idea. So, with this being a dead time in football, what better time to start than now?

The first defense we will go into is Cover 2. More of a coverage scheme than an overall defense, Cover 2 is used by many teams. The main objective of Cover 2 is to eliminate deep throws. Let’s diagram it.



The major cornerstone of the Cover 2 is the responsibility of the safeties. Each safety is responsible for one side of the field.

When the ball in snapped, the safeties begin to run backwards. They’re not running full speed, more backpedaling. We’ll get back to the safeties in a second.

The corners have some lee way. They know they have safety support behind them. So they can either bump and run or try to wall off towards the outside.

The linebackers are dropping back into coverage, but not that deep–about 5-10 yards. If it is a 3 receiver set, one of the outside linebackers covers the third receiver.

The defensive linemen are solely responsible for generating pressure.

So, the ball is snapped. Let’s watch some video:

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’][/pro-player]

So, the safeties drop back. When the ball is thrown the safety that is closest swarms in and attacks. That’s the support. He’s coming in and looking for a big hit. That’s his role. Read where the ball is going, react towards it and look for the hit. Linebackers have responsibility for the middle of the field, but we’re talking about crossing routes 5 yards from the line of scrimmage.  You’ll often see one of the linebackers in the slot. When this happens, the linebacker is essentially a third corner. With the linebackers retreating back, the receivers are free to eat up the middle of the field.

That’s why the corners want to push the wideouts outside. If you push him outside,  you know you have the safety to back you up, and you don’t have to worry about getting beat. Teams will use a running back out of the backfield to help negate this.

Cover 2 is a pretty basic defense. It takes away long passes, but is not very effective against short to intermediate passes. The Tampa 2 defense (Which we’ll detail later) remedies the short to intermediate problem. If you can get pressure, and have safeties that are aggressive and like to hit, this is a great base defense. Getting pressure is the big key. It’s a simple defense that is good for when you’re up big. I don’t like it as an every play defense. Opposing offenses can eat up the middle of the field. However, on obvious long passing downs, or when the game is out of hand, Cover 2 is a simple, but effective defense.

Like any defense, the biggest part is pressure. With only a 4 man front, pressure can be hard to come by. It has to be generated by the front 4. Without pressure, the QB has time for the underneath routes to develop.

When an offense sees Cover 2, they usually try to do some sort of crossing routes, or underneath routes. The main weakness of the Cover 2 is that the middle of the field is largely left open.


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One Response to “Defense Lessons: Cover 2”

  1. Alex says:

    You clearly never played in a cover 2 scheme. In almost every situation, the corner is taught to funnel the receiver INSIDE not outside. You have no help on the outside of the field, and it would be very unfair to the safeties to be responsible for a reciever running free to the corner, without at least a bump inside. Ideally you funnel your reciever into the MIDDLE where you have all your linebacker help and safety help. Corners are responsible for the flats, however, if there are no recievers there, you need to help the safeties with the deep pass.

    Linebackers are responsible for run first, so every linebackers first step is forward. If they read pass, then they will drop to their hook-to-curl zones in the middle (they are responsible for a lot more than the first 5 yards). As for the safeties, their main responsibility is to keep the receivers infront of them! Not look for a big hit. Id bet no coach is telling their deep 2 safeties to only look for a hit, they would get beat deep every time.

    I love your blog, but overall, your analysis on cover 2 was pretty weak.

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