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Defensive Back Coverages

Any Great Cornerback knows that while he may be a key factor in the outcome of a game, he is still only one of eleven other guys out there, with his own part to play. He also knows that the success of the defense depends on everyone of those guys knowing their assignments and executing them correctly.

When it comes to executing your assignment, you have to have a good grasp of defensive coverages. So I am going to explain the basic man and zone coverages defenses use to stop the opposing team.

I'm also going to give some tips on ways you can use these to your advantage and make plays on the ball.

Man Coverages

When a man coverage is called, you're locked up with a designated receiver for that play.

Man coverage is often called when coaches want linebackers or safeties to blitz, which leaves the middle of the field open.

This means you have to stay with your receiver, wary of any inside routes, and not let him catch the ball.

Press is called when receivers can definitely NOT be allowed inside.

Cover 0

Cover 0 is a coverage in which there is either no safety, because he's locked up with a WR/TE, or the safety is blitzing. The number 0 means there are zero safeties on the field. Man coverage across the board.

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In either case the field is left open, which means defensive backs have to lock up and not give it up. In this situation most of the time you'll be in press, but you can play off-man as long as you play hard on inside routes.

Cover 1

In Cover 1, there is one safety, who most times plays the deep middle of the field.

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Every one else is locked up with a man. Just like Cover 0, you can press to stop the inside release or play off and play hard on any inside routes.

Cover 2 Man

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Cover 2 Man is played with two safeties both covering a deep half of the field, and the two cornerbacks playing man, or a press-trail technique.

Linebackers can either play zone, or man coverage.

In this press-trail you do not allow the receivers to get an inside release. Instead you jam them, and then trail slightly behind them, baiting the quarterback to throw it in between you and the safety.

Because the quarterback has to throw a very accurate pass to get the ball to drop in there, there is a very good chance either you or the safety on your side can pick it off.

Zone Coverages

Cover 2

As a cornerback in Cover 2, it's your job to cover the flat (the blue oval).

If the offense decides to run your way in Cover 2, its your job to either blow up the ball carrier or force the play back in.

This is why a cornerback in Cover 2 is also called the "force" corner.

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Because you're covering the flat, the saftey on your side has a wide area to cover behind you. This is why it is often up to you to funnel the receiver to the inside just in case the offense decides to throw the ball.

This gives the safety time to come over and make the play.

Instead of lining up in press, you can also disguise this coverage by lining up at about 10 yards and sitting there. It makes the offense think you may be playing a deep zone.

Because you don't have to worry about the deep ball you can jump any short routes they throw.

Cover 3

In Cover 3 you're playing the deep third of the field, along with the other corner and the free safety.

Unless a team is desperate, they won't try to throw deep. Instead they'll try to use the coverage to their advantage by exploiting the weaknesses in the zone.

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In this example the slot receiver on the left runs a wheel route, assuming that he'll be covered by the strong, or "Sam", linebacker. The QB sees this mismatch and tries to throw the ball as soon as he sees seperation.

The cornerback is supposed to be deep, and not be able to get over in time. But, because there is no action coming to your zone, you can hover over top a bit instead of dropping too deep.

Pick.

Any time you're in a deep coverage like Cover 3 or 4, and two receivers are in your zone, you have to play the middle of them, but a bit closer to the inside guy.

This is because that is the easier throw for the quarterback. If he throws it to the outside receiver, however, you have speed turn to the outside and go make the play.

Cover 4

Cover 4 is the same idea as Cover 3, but there are four DBs deep instead of three. So in Cover 4 you play the deep 1/4 of the field on your side.

The same basic principles apply when it comes to making it work for you.

Remember that if the offense senses a deep coverage, they'll try to beat it with short, underneath passes. Use this to your advantage by not playing too deep if you don't have too.

Playmaking Principles of Zone Coverages

Always Remember to Look for Receivers Coming Into Your Zone From Across the Field.

Never just sit in a zone. Always find work. You won't know if there is a receiver open behind you unless you look.

Don't Overpursue and Leave Your Zone Open

This is probably the way offenses get most of their completions. Remember you have a zone for a reason....To Cover it. So don't get over excited and pursue a guy you're not supposed to.

Unless there is no one else around, play your zone, and transfer receivers to your teammates.

That leads into the next principle....

Make Sure You Communicate With Your Teammates

Give the "in" and "out" calls when receivers run in and out of your zone. Let your teammates know when work is coming so they can get ready to make a play on the ball.

BACK TO THE TOP OF DEFENSIVE BACK COVERAGES

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(Endorsed by GreatCornerback.com)

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