The Cover 2 defense is a popular defensive strategy in American football that aims to protect against deep passing plays while also providing solid run defense.
It is a zone defense that involves splitting the field into two deep zones, each covered by a safety, and five underneath zones covered by linebackers and cornerbacks.
Here we look into the details of the Cover 2 defense, its history, key principles, variations, and strategies.
History of the Cover 2 Defense
The Cover 2 defense has its roots in the early days of football, but it gained prominence in the 1970s with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defense.
Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Bud Carson, the Steelers implemented the Cover 2 defense to great success, winning four Super Bowls in six years.
Since then, the Cover 2 defense has become a staple in the NFL and college football.
Many teams have adopted variations of the defense, and it continues to evolve to counter modern offensive schemes.
Key Principles of the Cover 2 Defense
The Cover 2 defense is built on several key principles that make it effective against both the run and the pass.
Understanding these principles is crucial for coaches and players looking to implement or counter the Cover 2 defense.
1. Splitting the Field
The field is divided into two deep zones, each covered by a safety.
This splitting of the field allows the defense to effectively defend against deep passing plays, as both safeties can provide help over the top.
2. Zone Coverage
The Cover 2 defense relies on zone coverage, where defenders are responsible for specific areas of the field rather than individual receivers.
This allows defenders to read the quarterback’s eyes and react to the play.
3. Underneath Zone Coverage
In addition to the two deep zones, the Cover 2 defense utilizes five underneath zones.
These zones are covered by linebackers and cornerbacks, who drop into their assigned zones to defend against short and intermediate passes.
4. Run Defense
While the Cover 2 defense is primarily known for its pass defense, it also provides solid run defense.
The two safeties are responsible for filling gaps and making tackles near the line of scrimmage, while the linebackers and cornerbacks provide support.
How to play Cover 2 defense in football
Variations of the Cover 2 Defense
Over the years, coaches have developed various variations of the Cover 2 defense to adapt to different offensive schemes and personnel.
These variations add complexity and flexibility to the defense, making it harder for offenses to exploit its weaknesses.
1. Tampa 2
The Tampa 2 defense is a variation of the Cover 2 that was popularized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1990s.
In this variation, the middle linebacker drops deep into coverage, effectively creating three deep zones instead of two.
This allows the defense to defend against deep passes down the middle of the field.
2. Cover 2 Man
In the Cover 2 Man variation, the cornerbacks play man-to-man coverage on the wide receivers while the rest of the defense maintains their zone responsibilities.
This variation is effective against teams with strong wide receivers, as it provides tight coverage while still protecting against deep passes.
3. Robber Coverage
Robber coverage is a variation of the Cover 2 defense where one of the safeties “robs” the underneath zones, looking to make plays on short passes or crossing routes.
This adds an element of unpredictability to the defense and can disrupt the timing of the offense.
Strategies for Success with the Cover 2 Defense
Implementing the Cover 2 defense effectively requires careful planning and execution.
Here are some strategies that can help teams find success with this defensive scheme:
1. Strong Pass Rush
A strong pass rush is crucial when playing the Cover 2 defense.
By pressuring the quarterback, the defense can disrupt the timing of the passing game and force quick decisions.
This puts additional pressure on the offense and allows the defenders to make plays on the ball.
2. Communication and Discipline
Zone defenses like the Cover 2 rely heavily on communication and discipline.
Defenders must communicate effectively to ensure proper coverage and avoid leaving gaps in the defense.
Maintaining discipline in their zone assignments is also crucial to prevent big plays.
3. Disguise and Pre-Snap Movement
Pre-snap movement and disguise can confuse the offense and make it harder for them to read the defense.
By showing different looks before the snap, defenders can create uncertainty and force the offense into making mistakes.
4. Adjustments and Adaptability
Successful teams using the Cover 2 defense are able to make adjustments based on the offensive formations and tendencies.
Coaches must be able to identify weaknesses in their defense and make the necessary adjustments to counter the offense’s strategy.
How to Beat the Cover 2 Defense
The Cover 2 defense is a popular defensive strategy in American football that involves two deep safeties splitting the field in half, with each safety responsible for covering one half of the deep zone.
The defense aims to defend against deep passes and prevent big plays downfield.
While the Cover 2 defense is effective at limiting deep passing options, there are several strategies that offenses can employ to beat it.
Here are some approaches to consider:
Attack the middle of the field
The Cover 2 defense leaves a void in the middle of the field, between the two deep safeties and underneath the linebackers.
Offenses can exploit this area by utilizing crossing routes, slant routes, or seam routes.
These routes force the safeties to make difficult choices, as they must decide whether to stick with their deep coverage or come down to defend the routes in the middle.
Utilize double moves
Double moves can be effective against the Cover 2 defense, as the cornerbacks are responsible for defending the deep outside zones.
By initially running a short or intermediate route and then quickly transitioning into a deep route, receivers can create separation from the cornerback and attack the deep zones.
Post-corner, sluggo, and out-and-up routes are commonly used double moves against Cover 2.
Flood the zones
Another effective strategy against Cover 2 is to flood one side of the field with multiple receivers at different depths.
By running a combination of routes like a deep post, a deep out, and a short curl or flat route, the offense forces the defense to make choices on who to cover.
This can create mismatches and openings in the coverage, particularly in the deep zones where the safeties need to cover multiple receivers.
Utilize the running game
The Cover 2 defense is designed to defend against the pass, which can leave the defense vulnerable against the run.
By running the ball effectively, offenses can force the safeties to come down into the box to provide run support, which opens up opportunities for play-action passes and deep throws over the top.
Exploit the flats and sidelines
The deep safeties in Cover 2 typically split the field in half, which can leave the flats and sidelines vulnerable.
Quick out routes, swing passes, and screens to the running back or wide receiver can take advantage of the soft spots in the coverage.
By getting the ball to playmakers in space, offenses can create opportunities for yards after the catch.
Mix in route combinations
Employing route combinations that attack different levels of the defense can be effective against Cover 2.
For example, running a deep post route to occupy the safety while having an underneath receiver run a dig or curl route underneath can create a conflict for the defense.
The key is to create route combinations that stretch the coverage horizontally and vertically, forcing defenders to make difficult decisions.
No defense is foolproof, and the success of these strategies will depend on the execution, timing, and the abilities of the offensive personnel.
It’s also crucial for the offense to analyze the specific Cover 2 variations and adjustments made by the opposing defense, as defensive coordinators can employ different tactics to counter these offensive strategies.
FAQs – Cover 2 Defense
1. What are the main responsibilities of the safeties in the Cover 2 defense?
The safeties in the Cover 2 defense are responsible for covering the deep zones and providing help over the top.
They must read the quarterback’s eyes, react to the play, and make plays on the ball when necessary.
2. How do cornerbacks contribute to the Cover 2 defense?
Cornerbacks in the Cover 2 defense are responsible for covering the underneath zones and providing support in run defense.
They must be able to read the play, react quickly, and make tackles on short passes or runs to their side of the field.
3. Can the Cover 2 defense be vulnerable to deep passes?
While the Cover 2 defense is designed to defend against deep passes, it can be vulnerable to well-executed deep routes and accurate throws.
If the offense can stretch the safeties vertically or find holes in the zones, they can exploit the defense for big plays.
4. How can offenses attack the Cover 2 defense?
Offenses can attack the Cover 2 defense by utilizing crossing routes, flood concepts, and deep double moves.
By creating confusion in the zones and forcing defenders to make difficult decisions, offenses can find success against the Cover 2 defense.
5. What are the advantages of the Tampa 2 variation?
The Tampa 2 variation adds an extra deep defender by dropping the middle linebacker into coverage.
This allows the defense to defend against deep passes down the middle of the field, making it harder for offenses to exploit the void between the safeties.
6. How does the Cover 2 defense affect the running game?
The Cover 2 defense is designed to provide solid run defense by having the safeties fill gaps near the line of scrimmage and the linebackers provide support.
However, offenses can still find success by attacking the edges or using misdirection plays to confuse the defense.
7. Can the Cover 2 defense be effective against modern spread offenses?
Yes, the Cover 2 defense can be effective against modern spread offenses if executed properly.
By adjusting the depth and positioning of the defenders, teams can adapt the defense to counter the quick passing game and multiple receiving threats of spread offenses.
8. How important is the pass rush in the success of the Cover 2 defense?
The pass rush is crucial in the success of the Cover 2 defense. By pressuring the quarterback, the defense can disrupt the timing of the passing game and force quick decisions.
This puts additional pressure on the offense and allows the defenders to make plays on the ball.
9. What are some common mistakes made when playing the Cover 2 defense?
Common mistakes in the Cover 2 defense include leaving gaps in the zones, miscommunication among defenders, and failing to adjust to offensive formations and tendencies.
These mistakes can lead to big plays for the offense and undermine the effectiveness of the defense.
10. How can teams disguise their Cover 2 defense?
Teams can disguise their Cover 2 defense by showing different looks before the snap.
This can include rotating safeties, shifting linebackers, or bluffing blitzes.
By creating uncertainty in the offense’s mind, teams can gain an advantage and force mistakes.
11. Can the Cover 2 defense be effective in youth football?
The Cover 2 defense can be effective in youth football if taught properly and executed by disciplined players.
However, it is important to consider the skill level and experience of the players, as well as the offensive schemes they will face.
Coaches should adapt the defense to suit the capabilities of their team.
12. How can teams adjust their Cover 2 defense to counter a strong tight end?
Teams can adjust their Cover 2 defense to counter a strong tight end by assigning a linebacker or safety to cover the tight end man-to-man.
This allows the defense to provide tight coverage on the tight end while still maintaining the integrity of the zone coverage.
13. What are the key coaching points for teaching the Cover 2 defense?
When teaching the Cover 2 defense, coaches should emphasize communication, discipline, and proper technique.
Players must understand their zone responsibilities, read the quarterback’s eyes, and react quickly to the play.
Additionally, coaches should focus on teaching proper tackling techniques and the importance of gap discipline in run defense.
14. How can teams adjust their Cover 2 defense to counter a strong running back?
Teams can adjust their Cover 2 defense to counter a strong running back by bringing an extra defender into the box or shifting the alignment of the linebackers.
By crowding the line of scrimmage and filling gaps, the defense can limit the running back’s ability to find open lanes.
15. Can the Cover 2 defense be effective in college football?
The Cover 2 defense can be effective in college football if implemented properly and adjusted to counter the offensive schemes prevalent in college football.
Many college teams have found success with variations of the Cover 2 defense, adapting it to suit their personnel and opponents.
The Cover 2 defense is a versatile and effective defensive strategy in football. It provides solid pass defense while also offering strong run support.
By splitting the field into two deep zones and utilizing zone coverage, the defense can defend against deep passes and read the quarterback’s eyes.
Variations of the Cover 2 defense, such as the Tampa 2 and Cover 2 Man, add complexity and flexibility to counter different offensive schemes.
Successful implementation of the Cover 2 defense requires strong communication, discipline, and the ability to make adjustments based on offensive tendencies.
By understanding the key principles and strategies of the Cover 2 defense, coaches and players can effectively utilize this defensive scheme to their advantage.