I’ve been getting some decent feedback from the pass defense images I’ve made, so I’ve decided to extend this series for now.
Cover Zero and Man Free
In Cover Zero, all the defensive backs have assignments, and so there is no “free” safety. This is good for blitzes, but can be weak if your defensive backfield lacks the ability to cover for any length of time. In this image, the stippled lines represent an assigned ‘man’.
The coverage “man free” or “one free” is a defense where the free safety is a free agent, able to defend or double cover or safety blitz, as the need arises.
Cover 1 keeps the free safety back in a deep zone. Otherwise, coverage beneath is man to man, or perhaps a mix of man and zone.
Cover 2 and Tampa 2
Back in the day, Cover 2 was also called the double zone, because both outside receivers had a form of double coverage. There are references that claim the 1963 Chicago Bears played a form of a double zone and confused the heck out of people. This is significant because most folks were only playing rotating zones, if that (see the Cover 3 section).
Cover 2 is famous for having a hole in the middle. But if you have a fast, agile middle linebacker, as the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers did, then you can have him race down the middle and split the deep zone into three, forming what is known now as the Tampa 2 defense.
Cover 3: rotating zones versus the modern Cover 3.
In the early 1960s, when you said zone coverage, by default you meant this, and only this:
This kind of defense was abused in Super Bowl III, where Baltimore’s rotating zone became a sitting duck for a still mobile Joe Namath. By the 1970s, usage of this defense fell away, as it was too easy to diagnose.
The Cover 3 we will show here comes from a Stack 44 setup, achieved when a 4-3 Stack (Miami 4-3) overshifts the secondary. Some people call the defensive back at linebacker depth a monster or rover, and these kinds of defenses, with three defensive backs at backfield depth, naturally lend themselves to Cover 3, with three deep backs.
This is quarters-quarters-half coverage, what some folks call Cover 6 (Cause Cover 2 plus Cover 4 equals Cover 6). Note how it changes the complexion of the related Cover 3 from above.
Also called quarters coverage. This is a kind of prevent defense.