One of the biggest mistakes you can make in creating your defense and calling your defense is not matching the coverage to the front. Your coverages and your fronts must work together to best stop the run and the pass.
It doesn’t matter which one you decide to set first, front or coverage (kind of a chicken and egg thing), but they have to match. It should go without saying that if you want to run an 8-man front, you can’t run a 2-high safety coverage. It should, but it does not.
We’re going to start off with a 3-4, so we’ve got 2-high safeties. Perfect, I want to run a Quarters Coverage. In addition, it is very easy to roll one of those safeties down to an underneath zone, replacing a blitzing OLB in the 3-4 look, and create a Cover 3.
To be sure your front and your coverage match, you need to check your force/contain players and your flat players. First of all, they should generally be the same guy. Quarters is one exception because of the complex set of rules involved. Also, you need to be sure that anyone responsible for a deep zone is not going to be responsible for the run. We tell our Corners in Quarters that they have the #1 Receivers in most cases. They NEVER have run responsibilities in Quarters. In Cover 3, your 3 deep zone players should NEVER involved in primary run responsibilities. In Cover 2, your Corners are the flat players and play the contain, while the two deep safeties have only secondary run responsibilities. Another note with that is, Cover 0 and Cover 1 (man and man/free) can be run out of anything, but the guys in man coverage on removed receivers are not going to be run-responsible!
Best Fronts for the Coverage
There are certain coverages that I just like as a better fit with different coverages, regardless of the fact that all rules are satisfied in both cases. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t run one coverage with another front, just that I am accepting a situation that may be a little inferior in that one situation, for the sake of mixing it up.
Lets start with Quarters, which I love running with the 4-3 Defense. It fits all of the requirements with a 3-4 Defense, but the natural position of the OLBs at 3×3 off the Line of Scrimmage puts them in an odd spot to spill the play to the Safeties, who have contain. They just seem to be in a natural force/contain spot to me. Not that it can’t be done, of course! But its a preference deal. The Defensive Ends in the 4-3 Defense are in a great spot, tilted on the outside edge of the End Man on the Line of Scrimmage (EMOLS), to spill the play outside to the safeties.
The 4-2-5 and the 3-5-3 are 8-man fronts that can easily be adapted to work with a two-high safety coverage. Just drop your weak side OLB back and you’ve got a 7-man front. Of course, that guy has to be versatile enough to do it, has to roll back before the snap unless he’s an exceptional player, and tips your hand a little bit. So it can be done, I would just rather not. These are natural fits for Cover 3.
One of my favorite things about the 3-4 Defense is the incredible possibilities with Zone Blitzing, so the 3-under, 3-deep coverage concept is my favorite out fo this look. So many parts moving so many places, and all falling together so well.
Teaching Multiple Coverages with Multiple Fronts
The way to combine all of these fronts, and all of these coverages, is to teach your players the concepts, and teach them to communicate. You may not really run all of these, and certainly won’t run some of them often, but your kids can figure out how to do them easily.
Whether you make your calls with names or numbers, tell them why you are using those terms. I like colors. If we’re using ‘Green’ for Cover 3, I tell them “We call it Green because it sounds like ‘Three’. Show them the coverage. Then ask why they think it is called “Three” or “Green”? Someone will get it. You have 3 guys deep. Alright, so pre-snap, as long as we know who the 3 deep guys are (and in almost all cases, the corners are deep so its only communication between the safeties), we’ll have things right. Teach the Linebackers what the Underneath zones are, and how to communicate with eachother there too.
Ask how many “Quarters” are in a dollar – 4. Now they’re getting the concept of Quarters coverage. There may be some more explanation involved in this one as far as rules, but ultimately we need to know that if 4 guys run deep, 4 guys will handle them.
Each coverage has a big effect in one one or two players are doing, but not really everyone. So don’t bother everyone with it. Your Corners are doing something similar in Cover 3 and Quarters – not exact, but similar. They are doing something wildly different in Cover 2! Make sure they’re the experts on Cover 2. The Safeties better be the experts on Quarters, because they’re making all of your checks. And Cover 0 and Cover 1 are like playing flag football – everyone’s got a man, so communicate who has what! Whoever is the expert, they better be doing some talking out there.
You can integrate all of the fronts and all of the coverages you would like to have easily, as long as you can teach the concepts to your players, and get your players to communicate. Don’t try to put everything in, but select what you need to compete with the teams that you play and the teams that you need to beat. Adapt your playbook to your unique situation and set your players up for success!
By: Joe Daniel
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Joe Daniel has been a high school and college football coach. He also writes the Football-Defense Report blog. There you can find lots of info on coverages like this article on Cover 3 Defense. Article Marketing Automation by Article Marketing Robot