Baltimore Ravens Football 101: Zone Coverage


Football 101 Is For Those Baltimore Ravens Fans Who Need It

Well we have to go yet another weekend without football. You know what that means, it is time to talk some football. Football is a beautiful game and it is even more fun when you understand the concepts you see on the field. That’s why every weekend I go over some basic football 101. This isn’t for everybody but I know some fans like brushing up on the fundamentals. Today we’re talking about zone coverage.

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When you play a game of pick up football, chances are that you just play man coverage. You’re not getting complicated; its a run with your receiver and don’t let him catch it kind of thing. Man coverage is great but in the NFL it cannot be the only thing you do. In the pros you have to mix up your coverage schemes.

Cover 2 And Tampa 2

Let’s start with Cover 2. The two means that there are two deep safeties. In this coverage Ladarius Webb and Eric Weddle will be splitting the two deep halves of the football field. The cornerbacks will cover the flats. The cornerback does not run with the wide receiver, rather he covers the short pass and funnels the deeper route into the two deep zones.

The advantage to Cover 2 is that there are two players defending the deep pass. The weakness of the Cover 2 defense is the deep sidelines and deep center of the field. Routes that attack these portions of the field stretch the two deep zones.

A solution to the vulnerability of the Cover 2 is the Tampa 2 defense. In this coverage C.J. Mosley will drop into a deep zone in between the two deep safeties. In the Tampa 2 though we are taking away one problem and creating another. When the middle linebacker vacates the shallow to intermediate middle of the field, this becomes a vulnerability.

Cover 3

In Cover 3 the free safety plays the deep middle third of the field. The cornerbacks take the two deep outside thirds of the field. The intermediate zones and flats are played by linebackers. It is hard to attack vertically down the field in a Cover 3 defense.

Besides the protection from the long passing game, the Cover 3 can make the strong safety a wild card. With an inverted safety playing inside the tackle box he is free to drop into coverage, or rush the passer. This is most fun in the 3-4 defense. With an inverted safety in a Cover 3 defense, the offense has to play a guessing game. Is the linebacker coming, is the safety blitzing or are they both rushing the passer?

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The vulnerability of the Cover 3 defense is the seams and the intermediate sideline. Think about it for a second. You have your corners responsible for the deep pass. This makes the intermediate pass outside a conflict of interest for the cornerback, especially in clever route combinations. Down the seam while the defense is dropping into position, is hard to defend.

Cover 4

Cover two and cover four are almost the same, but there are four deep defenders. The two safeties play the middle quarters of the field. The corners take the outside quarters. This defense is also called quarters coverage. This defense is not great for stopping the short pass but it makes the deep ball almost impossible.

You’re doing great. As you can see the numbers just represent the number of players who are covering deep portions of the field. Here are just a few more things you should no. Cover 1 means that there is just one deep safety. This is usually the free safety. Cover 0 means there is no deep defenders. It is straight up man coverage. Cover 2 Man under is two deep safeties with the cornerbacks playing man coverage.

Next: Baltimore Ravens: Is Justin Forsett's Job Safe?

Remember every defensive coverage has a weakness. The trick is a healthy mix of different coverage schemes. It is also good to know what the defense is trying to do. Different situations lend themselves to different philosophies.