August 10th, 2010 at 10:16 PM ^

Schematically speaking, what is the typical way for a cover 3 defense to defend against a team running balanced sets with 4-verticals?

If a team ran, for example, a 3-3-5, could they give the bandit and spur responsibility for any vertical routes on the inside receiver in their half of the field? Would they drop one of the two into a zone (which I guess would be cover 4 or quarters)? Or would they just say "screw it" and take their chances with the numerical mismatch?

steve sharik

August 10th, 2010 at 10:43 PM ^ really a 2-on-1 against the free safety.

The QB is coached to look off the Free Safety and throw to the #2 receiver away from him.  Well-coached safeties are instructed to not come out of the exact middle of the field until the ball is in the air.  Four verticals against Cover 3 is not designed for the home run.  The QB should deliver the ball on a relative line (a la Denard to Roundtree in the spring game) at 15-20 yards downfield; i.e., behind the LBs and in front of the Free Safety.

A properly coached Cover 3 defense will use its LBs to re-route and not give up easy seam throws.  For a 3-3-5 defense, the alignment of the #2 reciever changes who is responsible for this.  If #2 is a TE or Wing, then one of the Stack Backers (Sam, Will, whatever) is responsible for seam elimination (as we like to call it).  If #2 is a wide slot, then either the Spur or Bandit is responsible. 

The objectives are threefold:

  1. Take away the quick seam throw by jamming and running with #2.
  2. Widen the seam route to the Corner's zone, or outside 1/3.  Do not let #2 cross your face.
  3. Get your eyes to #1.

Once the jam and re-route is accomplished, the LB will key #1.  If #1 continues vertically up the field, the LB will continue to run with #2.  If #1 throttles down, the LB will come off #2 and get to his zone.  The Stack Backer will hunt a crossing route by #1 while the Spur/Bandit will hunt inside-out; i.e., curl to deep out to quick out.  This is an easy read but hard to get to quickly.  The Spur/Bandit must be a superior athlete.  (This is one of my reservations about Kovacs.  I don't believe he can take away a seam and be able to get to a curl against quality QB/WR combos.)

The properly-coached Corner in Cover 3 will align himself on the outside shoulder of #1 at a depth of 7-8 yards (assuming he is not using a bail technique, something I loved to use).  His keys are #2 to #1.  Against 4-verts, the corner will read the vertical release of #2 and pedal with the idea of splitting the distance b/w #1 and #2, and then key #1.  Seeing #1 also vertical, he indeed splits the horizontal distance of #1 and #2 while staying deeper than the deepest.  (If #1 were to run an underneath route, the Corner would then adjust his backpedal to the outside shoulder of #2 without going inside the hash.)

The Mike is responsible for crossing routes b/w the hashes and checkdowns.  Digs and hooks he will attack; shallow crosses and checkdowns he will not attack until the ball is thrown.  Saban rule: in Cover 3, never break on any route under 5 yards until the ball is thrown.  If you do, he will oversign your ass out of town.  (Okay, I added that last part.)

Of course, all this is nice clinic talk.  In reality, a good QB/WR unit can carve up even a good defense in Cover 3 with Four Verticals.

steve sharik

August 11th, 2010 at 11:15 AM ^

But switching coverages to stop 4-verts leaves a defense vulnerable to other things.  Cover 4 takes 4-verts away, but is weak in the flats and against PAP (Play Action Pass).  I like a coverage called Cover 2 Read, where the Corner and Safety will both read #2.  For the Corner, he stays on top of and outside shoulder of #1 unless #2 comes to the flat, whereupon he jumps the flat.  For the Safety, he stays on top of #2 unless #2 goes underneath in any way, then he gets on top of #1.  So 4-verts is covered b/c Cover 2 Read is essentially Cover 4, but 2 Read isn't weak in the flat b/c the Corner will stay on #1 in the flat or jump #2 coming to the flat.

Of course, every defense is vulnerable to something.  That's why a defense must be multiple.  Iowa is not; they run 4-3 Cover 2 almost exclusively.  Yes, they do line stunts a lot, but we should be able to take advantage, both in the run game and the pass game, of the fact that they're so simple.  That's what the spread is designed to do: spread people out and have enough schemes and formations to make the defense be simple, then attack the weakness(es) of what they choose.