Cover Two Zone Defense

For the past three years, the Denver Broncos have been one of my favorite teams to watch on defense, especially when they run the cover two zone (which is quite often). The corners are pressed tight on receivers, the rushers are coming fast off the edge and linebackers are reading the short routes and the run. Their zone was a nightmare for most offenses because each defender executed their assignment perfectly.


In a cover two zone, the corners play close up on receivers in order to jam them on the line. This physical play can disrupt the timing of routes and place added pressure on the quarterback to adjust instinctively on quick throws. The corners are responsible for short yardage on their side of the field from sideline to hash. The safeties split the field into two deep halves. Their job is to keep all offensive personnel in front of them.

Linebacker roles in this defense may vary depending on scheme and formations. The middle linebackers has the middle of the field and both outside linebackers have the deep curl in their zones on each side.

The Downside

Although the cover two zone works wonders with an athletic and disciplined defense, coaches should be aware of its disadvantages. Cover two puts a great deal of pressure on the safeties to cover a lot of ground deep down the field. If a quarterback has time, he can test these defenders in a one on one situation downfield. There are also several gaps for quick passes if the quarterback is precise and receivers run their routes. Finally, there are matchups that favor the offense in certain formations where there are multiple receivers on one side of the ball, such as linebackers on slot receivers or running backs.

As a coach, running a cover two defense boasts aggression up front, athleticism by backers combined with speed and discipline on the outside. Knowing when to run this zone is crucial in slowing down offenses and forcing three and outs all game.

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