Understanding the Cover 2 Zone
- Updated: February 27, 2017
Defensive coverages are one of the hardest things to teach in football. They must be sound against the pass and rely on players understanding, and completing their role. This can be difficult at any level as players sometimes step away from their role in order to do the job of another player. This makes it very difficult to teach a sound coverage that can withstand a full season.
Understanding the Cover 2 Zone in Football
Cover 2 can be a great formation because it can break down player’s responsibilities into clear roles. In addition to this the areas where Cover 2 is weak (down both sidelines from 17-20 yards deep) are very hard for youth league Quarterbacks to throw to. The major disadvantage is that it does have two safeties which means there is one less run defender.
The Cornerbacks in Cover 2 play an absolutely critical role in keeping the integrity of the coverage. There specific zone is the sideline flats. This means that they are responsible for any short pass from the sideline in to halfway between the numbers and the hash. This zone tends to be a hot zone for youth league teams since passes to this zone are relatively low risk and have a high completion percentage. By putting one of the defense’s best pass defenders in this space the goal of the Cover 2 is to shut down this hot zone. The major weak point of the Cover 2 is the sideline at about 17-20 deep. The route that is most typically thrown to this spot is the fade route from #1. In order to shut down this route the Cornerback must get an outside jam on the #1 WR. This means that he cannot allow him to have a clean outside release. The Cornerback must jam any outside release and slow the WR down so the Safety has a chance to get over to make a play on the ball. If the WR gets a clean outside release the playside Safety has almost no shot at covering the fade pass but if the WR is forced to the inside the Safety now has a chance to get off his hash and cover the deep ball.
Playing Cover 2 Safety is one of the toughest defensive assignments in football. Your pass responsibility is to cover the deep half of the field. This means that no one can be allowed to get behind the safety. The safety should align himself roughly on the hash marks so that he can cover the whole deep half of the field. Obviously this changes if the offense is on either hash. If the offense is on the hash the Safety to the short side of the field (the boundary) should play about 2 yards outside of the Offensive Tackle while the Safety on the wide side of the field (the field) should come in and play roughly in the middle of the field.
While the Cornerback and Safeties are responsible for the outer parts of the coverage the linebackers are responsible for the areas that are closer to the ball. Each outside linebacker is responsible for the hook/curl zone. This is the space from the Offensive Tackle to the Flats and goes around 10-12 yards deep. This is an area where many teams will try to hit quick slants or seam routes before the WR enter into the Safeties coverage area. The Middle Linebacker is responsible for the middle of the field. This is the space from Tackle to Tackle.
Cover 2 is not a perfect coverage but it can be very effective in shutting down the quick passes to the flats that many offenses rely on. In addition to this the two Safety structure ensures that the defense is sound against any vertical route.
(See Also): Man to Man Coverage Techniques
(See Also): Cover 3 Zone