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Whiteboard Wednesday: Cover 3 Defense Explained

In this Whiteboard Wednesday Series we will be going over different coverages in football. Starting off we will talk about the Cover 3 Defense.

Cover 3 is a zone defense where there are three defensive backs deep splitting the field in thirds. Typically this is going to be the two Cornerbacks and a Free Safety. Underneath you will have four defenders dividing the field into four zones. Cover 3 defense is a great base defense for teams because it protects well against the run and the pass. 

Breaking Cover 3 into three levels: 

Level One (Green): Flat Defenders
  • Responsible for Run first – outside gap (C & D Gaps) – if an outside run main responsibility will be to force the runner to go back inside.
  • Goal is to get hands on #2 WR to funnel inside to the middle of the field. 
  • Zone is a progression from hook to curl to flat. Depth should be between 10-12 yards while making way to the flats. 
Level Two (Blue): Hook to Curl Defenders
  • Responsible for Run first – Inside the tackles (A & B Gaps)
  • Between the two middle linebackers zones will be 8-12 yards off the ball inside the hashes in the middle of the field
Level Three (Orange): Deep Third Defenders
  • Not Responsible for the Run. 
  • Cannot let anyone offensive player be deeper than them
  • Start 6-7 yards off of the LOS (Line of Scrimmage) then bail when the ball is snapped.
Strengths of a Cover 3 Defense:
  1. Well balanced and effective against both the pass and the run. .
  2. Ability to play eight men at the line of scrimmage. These players can space out the field properly while still committing to any run.
Attacking the Cover 3 Defense: 

Seams (12-15 Yards)- Look off middle safety and throw where he is not.

Middle of Field (Under 8 Yards) – Find alley where one of the LB opened up too wide

Flats (Hitches/Bubbles) – Quick Hitting route between the safety or LB can get to the flat.


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