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Land Jacobsen Head Coach Western New Mexico University Silver City, N.M.
t is an honor to represent Western New Mexico University and our football program in the AFCASummer Manual. I would like to thank defensive line coach Tobe Smith for help on this article. This fall marks my 25th year of coaching this great game, with 23 years spent at the college level and all of them coaching the secondary. I have seen a wide cross-section of fronts and coverages during that time, but the basics always remain constant. I want to discuss an old favorite, Cover 2. We believe in teaching the strengths and weaknesses of each coverage so that the players understand if a play is made by the offense, we do not lose confidence in the coverage. Cover 2 is a two-deep, five underneath zone coverage. You should have very good coverage short and be able to react quickly on the run or option phase. With two safeties each covering half of the field, you are vulnerable to three and four receiver combinations vertical, triple streak or post corner routes by the No. 1 receiver and a vertical route by a tight end or No. 2 receiver weak. We want to stress reading the routes and overplaying certain combinations or forcing the quarterback to throw to the underneath zones. Looking at today’s coverage, you will see all quarter coverage, quarter-quarterhalves, roll weak, three-deep zone and combinations of man and zone. Cover 2 has been a consistent mainstay for the last 20 years. In teaching Cover 2 today, you must be able to adapt to the multiple formations you encounter along with motion from wide receivers or from the backfield. Cover 2 is a zone coverage which tells my players, all defenders in coverage should see the ball thrown and be able to react to it. We try to avoid ever turning our back on the quarterback so that we can react once the ball is thrown and move to it (Diagram 1). I teach stance, start and alignment with
alignment, either a head up even stance or outside foot up, body slightly turned inside facing the quarterback. I want the corners in a relaxed position, not tight or tense. Their alignment is five to seven yards outside the eye of the No. 1 receiver.
(Diagram 2) The safeties are 10-14 yards deep depending on where the ball is on the field. Again, I will give a player with experience and talent some leeway about alignment, but keep in mind, depth is always an ally. If the formation is in the middle of the field, the safeties split the difference between No. 1 and No. 2, a tight end or another wide receiver, and to the weak side, the No. 1 receiver and the offensive tackle. The safeties depth is 12-14 yards off the line of scrimmage. The corners are five to seven yards off the No. 1 receiver. The secondary keys the quarterback for a run-pass look. For instance, ball off the line of scrimmage, we play pass and react accordingly. Ball on the line of scrimmage, we think run with the safeties staying in a back pedal until no possibility of a pass. If the ball is off the line of scrimmage, both safeties will key the tight end and stay in back pedal until the route develops and react to it. Once the tight end moves horizontally, the safeties find the No. 1 receiver to their side and react to him. If the receiver is vertical with an outside release, the safety must open and run to the hole. If the receiver releases inside, the safety stays in a back pedal and again reacts to what he encounters. Outside (post corner), the defensive back jumps to the up-field arm. (Diagram 3) An inside release, (dig route) the defensive back jumps the route and
the defensive back knowing, down, distance, field position, time of the game and score. I give our corners flexibility with
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •
closes to the up-field arm. If the ball is on the hash with formation to the field, the corners alignment remains the same. The strong safety to the field splits the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 with depth at 12-14 yards, the free safety is just outside the weak side hash and aligned 10 yards deep, knowing the sideline is an ally. Both safeties still key the tight end for a vertical release and then play accordingly. If they get a vertical release, they must feel the tight end moving toward one or the other safety and be able to break to him if the ball is thrown. The corners will move laterally from their alignment to jam the No. 1 receiver. We believe you must try to force an inside release by the No. 1 receiver on each side to constrict the area the safeties have to cover. You cannot always force an inside release, but by the corner’s alignment, you can force the wide receiver to move laterally to avoid the jam thus taking time away on the pattern and not allowing him to get depth down the field. We want to constrict the area for the safeties and have the corners play HI-LO, moving to 12-13 yards deep and reacting back to a ball thrown underneath in the zone. We would like to describe the linebackers responsibilities in Cover 2. Our middle linebacker, or Mike, will key the ball through the No. 3 receiver or near back and feel No. 1 and No. 2 for the overall picture. He will open to the back flow, wall off No. 3 strong if split flow or strong flow. If weak flow shows, he will wall off No. 3 weak. Our strongside linebacker, or Sam, will key the ball through the tight end or No. 2 receiver and feel No. 1 and No. 3 for the overall picture. Sam will wall the tight end off and try to avoid an inside release. If the tight end releases flat inside, Sam will step and slam him towards the Mike and drop to the seam looking for the No. 1 receiver and feeling the near back. Our weakside backer, or Will, opens to the weakside and drops hook to curl. He finds No. 1 receiver weak and works under him, feels the back weak and his release and scans for the tight end on a crossing route. Some overall rules for the linebackers are settle when the quarterback settles, their head is on a swivel looking for crossing routes and adjustments and the potential threat in their zone. Communication is imperative to be able to react to the route as it develops and for the coverage to be successful. If nothing shows in the linebacker’s zone, then they will continue to get depth to the next level.
Again, the backers must know the strengths and weaknesses of the coverage and react to what shows as the route develops. The linebackers must communicate with each other, as well as the corners to avoid over reacting together and voiding a zone completely.
is also a balanced formation with four receivers. This is the maximum test on the coverage because of the possibility of mismatches with receivers in the open field against our Sam and Will linebackers.
(Diagram 4) The next formation involves a one-back set with a tight end and flanker on one side and a wide receiver and an Hback to the weakside. The Sam backer plays the same techniques as before, wall off the tight end and drop to the seam. The Mike linebacker adjusts to an even look, almost the look of a true 4-3 middle backers alignment. He will open to the tight end side, if no inside release, he will drop to the strong hook area and look for crossing route or a back out on a circle route. We move the Will linebacker out to No. 2 weak, forcing an outside release coupled with the corner forcing an inside release, again constricting the area the free safety must cover and the corner reading No. 2’s route and playing HI-LO. There is no change to the strong side or the strong safety keying the tight end’s release and favoring him when the tight end releases vertically knowing the corner will run with No. 1 because of no quick threat in the flat. The main thought with this set is the potential of four receivers releasing vertically and being able to defend them. We coach our corners to read the No. 2 receiver on each side and force an inside release by No. 1 and run with him until threatened in the flat. This process helps the safeties to overplay the No. 2 receiver, because they are the receiver nearest to the quarterback and a short quick throw can beat you here. Again, we are coaching for the most dangerous potential routes. Once you read the route and you have crossing routes occurring, the safeties will move to the deepest route in their half of the field and react. The corners will either overplay a deeper route or vertical route and play HI or react to a threat in their shorter zone and move to a pass route thrown short or LO. (Diagram 5) The last set we’ll talk about
The corners will have an alignment of five to seven yards outside eye of the No. 1 receiver. They will try to force an inside release to constrict the field for the safety on their side. The corners will feel the release of the No. 2 receiver on their side, knowing he is a quick threat to their zone. If the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers go vertical, the corners will force an inside release and run with No. 1 until the flat is threatened. If No. 1 releases vertical and No. 2 releases to the flat, the corner will force an inside release and start HI to help the safety buy time, until the safety gets to No. 1 in the hole. The safeties also must read the routes and react accordingly. If the No. 2 receiver releases vertical, the strong safety or free safety will favor and move towards No. 2 because he is the short, quick throw. Starting with the Sam linebacker, his alignment is inside No. 2 about three to five yards deep, forcing an outside release and depending on the split of No. 2, the Sam could still adjust to the run. The Will backer has the same alignment on No. 2 weak, forcing an outside release, unless the receiver just runs laterally as a crosser-back inside. If that happens, Will gives Mike a call to alert him and Will drops to the weak curl and finds the No. 1 receiver, trying to work under him depending on the route. Sam and Will must read the route of No. 2 and No. 1. If No. 2 works outside, Sam and Will must find No. 1 if the receiver slants in or runs a Dig route. They will work under No. 1 and even might have to work wider, again depending on the route. The Mike linebacker is in an even look and will open and drop according to where the ball is on the field. On the hash, Mike will open and drop to the field. In the middle of the field, Mike would open to the quarterbacks side that he throws from as a rule. We hope this article has helped or affirmed some points for you. We wish you the best in the coming season, using an old favorite, Cover 2.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •