Cover Three Zone is a standard defense used on the high school, collegiate and professional level. This defense provides balance for stopping the run and the pass. Both corners have the deep third on their side or the field and the free safety is responsible for the middle. The Will (weak side) linebacker and strong safety will cover the left and right side underneath routes (known as the flat).
The best time to use the cover three zone is on second or third and long. The offense will be pressed to pick up large chunks of yardage, often by throwing the ball downfield. Having defenders in position to make a play maximizes your chances of preventing big gains on these plays. However, please note that some teams may try and slip underneath to a speedy receiver or handoff to a shifty back in order to catch the defense off guard. Prepare your players for these scenarios where sure tackling will keep the chains from moving.
Cover three zone is less likely to be effective when facing short yardage situations, where offenses are inclined to run the ball or make quick throws. There is not enough defensive support towards the line of scrimmage and the offense will have the numbers advantage. In addition, teams with strong running games can be punishing for defenses that run the cover three zone because they do not have enough players in the box.
Defensive coaches that are aware of the pros and cons of the cover three can utilize this zone to their advantage during games.
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