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Whiteboard Wednesday: Cover 2 Defense Explained

In this Whiteboard Wednesday Series we will be going over different coverages in football. This week we will be going over a Cover 2 Defense. To read more about Cover 3 Defense click here. 

Cover 2 is a zone defense where there are two defensive backs deep splitting the field in half. This is going to be the two safeties. Underneath you will have five defenders dividing the field into five zones. 

As a quarterback you are expected to read the defense to be able to deliver the ball where it needs to go. There are two reads pre-snap that will help you distinguish the different coverages. 

The first read you make is the middle of the field. Is it open or closed? Open means that there is not a defender in the middle of the field. Closed means that there is a defender in the middle of the field. If it is open (it will be in a Cover 2) you can begin to establish that it is one of three coverages (Cover 2, Cover 2 Man, or Cover 4). 

After the quarterback establishes Open or Close middle of the field the second read goes to the backside corner. In a Cover 2 they will be within 6 yards of the line of scrimmage and they will be outside leverage of the WR (learn why below). After making these two reads pre-snap you are able to confidently identify what coverage the defense will be in. 

Breaking Cover 2 into three levels: 

Level One (Green): Flat Defenders
  • These will be the Cornerbacks. They will be within 6 yards from the line of scrimmage and outside alignment with their butt facing the sideline. The reason for this is that they need to funnel everything to the has to make the two deep half defenders zones smaller.
  • Zone is from the top of the numbers to the sideline 12 yards and under. 
Level Two (Blue): Hook to Curl Defenders
  • Responsible for Run first – In the box defenders (A, B, & C Gaps)
  • The two outside linebackers will be responsible for the zone between the top of the numbers to the hash. While the middle linebacker will be responsible for the zone in the middle of the field between the hashes.
Level Three (Orange): Deep Half Defenders
  • Not Responsible for the Run. 
  • Cannot let anyone offensive player be deeper than them
  • Start 10-12 yards off of the line of scrimmage and will start on the hash. 

Strengths of a Cover 2 Defense:

  1. Well balanced and effective against both the deep pass and the run.
  2. Ability to play nine men at the line of scrimmage. These players can space out the field properly while still committing to any run.

Attacking the Cover 2 Defense: 

The Hole Shot (12-15 Yards)- This needs to be a throw on a rope. If the QB is able to get the ball to the WR right after the WR clears the CB there is a lot of room to for the WR to catch the ball and run before the Safety can get to him. 

Middle of Field (Over 12 Yards) – The middle of the field will be wide open. A football field is 53 ⅓ yards wide. With that each safety is responsible for a little over 26 yards. That is a lot of field to cover! 


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