Football 101: The Cover-2 Defense

Jordan ColemanAnalyst IJune 17, 2010

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Chad Jones #3 of the LSU Tigers knocks off the helmet of Joe Adams #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 33-30 in overtime.   (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Football season is getting closer every day. This season, I am going to get to sit back and enjoy some football, unlike last season, with my entry into the United States Air Force with basic training and my technical training.

So in commemoration for the upcoming season, with me being the football freak that I am, I am going to do a series on some of the basic defensive schemes we will all see.

This first edition I will be outlining the Cover 2 defense.

I will be using the basic 4-3 package. As you know, there are four down lineman up front. Their responsibilities are pretty much standard.


Defensive Ends
The D-Ends responsibility is to keep containment on the edges in case of a scramble and an outside bounce and to put pressure on the quarterback (obviously).

Unless the D-Coordinator has called a stunt where the Ends pinch down inside and the backers rush the edges or the ends drop back into coverage of the flats, but we'll not get into that since this is just the basic Cover 2.

Defensive Tackles

The two inside defensive tackles responsibility is inside. They will get off the ball and take the inside gaps and try to penetrate the protection and disrupt the pocket from inside.

Doing this will cause the QB to make a bad throw or scramble outside, which will play right in to the D-Ends' responsibility for containment of the edges and lead him right to the rushing D-Ends.

The linebackers will drop back to coverage (unless on a stunt from the D-Coordinator). As you can see, the backers' coverage zones are pretty much the same.

They all are responsible for the "Hook and Curl." It's their job to read the backfield for inside routes (if there are backs).

The defensive backs will help them with outside receivers coming inside to their zones by giving them an "In" call to let them know to get their head around to the outside man's inside route. They are to blow up any inside route that comes their way.

In a basic Cover 2 scheme, the corner backs are responsible for the flats. Running backs running short outside routes coming out of the backfield, receivers running short stop routes, out routes, etc.

If their matchup out wide runs a deep route, the corner will keep a cushion (usually a four-yard distance between them) but keep aware of his flat zone.

If his man runs a deep route and someone runs to his flat zone, he will give an "Out" call to the safeties to signal their deep route and will get back and play his flat zone FAST. On the other hand, if no man comes to his flats, he will keep dropping.

The two deep safeties are responsible for the deep routes. They have the best view of the play from being back deep. They can scan their halves of the field and watch the play develop.

When one of the corners gives an "Out" call to signal there man on a deep route, they are to pick up that man coming into there zone whether it be a vertical route, deep post, dig route, deep out, etc.

The safeties have the most critical part of the zone defense. They are the last line of defense and CANNOT allow anyone behind them.

Whenever a deep route comes, they are to roll over to guard their deep half of the field in which the receiver is coming and not let the receiver behind them.

For the whole defense, one can easily tell a run from a pass as soon as the ball is snapped and even before. Before the ball is snapped, you can usually read the O-Line and get the upcoming play based on their stances.

An O-Line that is top heavy in their stance and getting low usually means a run play is coming. When the O-Line is leaned back in their stances on their heels, it usually means a pass play is coming.

Likewise, when the ball is snapped, on a run play, the O-Line will explode off the ball and stay low off the line of scrimmage. But when it's a pass, you all know the O-Line can't pass the line of scrimmage (unless it is a screen behind the line), so they will drop for protection.

This is usually how the secondary will read the play, since they aren't down on the line of scrimmage and aren't really able to read the stances from that far back.

The Cover 2 defense is very simple and basic. Just like every basic zone defense, it is all about zone responsibility and communication.