Friday, January 22, 2010

Cover 1 and Cover 3 Beaters

After outlining how to identify all base coverages in my previous two posts, we now need to know how to attack them. Each coverage has both strengths and weaknesses, and defensive coaches will play these coverages according to what they are trying to take away from the offense.

Cover 3 Beaters:

Cover 3 is a very common coverage seen at the high school level. For one reason, it is hard to find corners that can lock up and play a lot of man coverage, or corners physical enough to be run defenders as cover 2 corners.

Four Verticals:

The easiest way to get a defense out of playing cover 3 is to hit them with the ever popular four vertical concept. This concept is exactly what it sounds, four guys running vertical. It provides a horizontal stretch on the FS with the two seams on the inside. The QB is taught to guide the safety with his eyes to one side and then throw to the opposite seam. Georgia Southern's Chris Hatcher explains the four vertical concept a little more in depth. Georgia Southern actually turns the outside receiver routes into 16 yard comebacks, but the same stretch on the free safety is taking place.


The curl-flat concept is a great combination as well to beat cover 3. It puts tremendous pressure on the on the flat defender, who is the OLB in cover 3. The OLB cannot be right in this situation, if he jumps the flat route then the curl window will open up nicely. If he hangs in the curl window, then the flat route will be there for the taking. The video clip below from Madden 10 shows a cover 3 defense, with the OLB jumping the flat route which results in a very wide window to throw the curl.

Quick game concepts:

Because of the bail technique of the corners in cover 3, it is very susceptible to quick game throws such as hitches and speed outs. The OLB has run responsibility as a force defender is cover 3, so the flats are there for the taking.

Cover 1 Beaters

Because cover 1 is a man coverage, looking for and game planning to get the ball your best athlete matched up on a questionable cover guy is a essential to beating cover 1.

Smash or China:

The smash concept is a great concept vs. cover 1 because the FS is in the middle of the field and will have a difficult time getting over the top of the corner route to help out. Defensive coaches teach man technique corners to play inside leverage to take away the inside breaking routes, so that leaves them susceptible to sideline breaking routs such as corners (also known as a flag route) and comebacks. The corners can either be ran by #1 with a reduced split or by a #2 or #3 receiver, depending on the best matchup. You can do what you want with the receivers not running the corner. Against zone, the corner route is usually paired with a hitch in order to high/low the corner to that side. However, a better option vs. man would be to run something to beat man coverage such as a retrace or bench route.


Mesh is a man coverage killer. Using a "rub" concept, the objective is to screen or a pick in order to get someone open vs. man coverage. It is illegal to intentionally pick a man, however the mesh concept is set up to accomplish this legally. Two crossers will run across the field at a depth of 4-6 yards in opposite directions. One crosser will "set the mesh" and the two will slap hands as they continue crossing the field. This ensures there is no space for the defenders chasing the receivers to get through. The result is a play that usually results in one of the meshers springing wide open as he gets into the flat area. Texas Tech has made a lot of their money on the mesh, versus both man and zone. A clip from NCAA 09 demonstrates the mesh concept.


Another popular cover 1 beater is the fade/out concept. This concept is where the outside receivers run vertical after getting an outside release. The inside most receiver will then run a short out route, which he will be provided with a lot of run after the catch room because of the vacated defenders going with the outside vertical routes. The 2:25 mark of the video below shows some good footage of the fade/out concept run out of a trips set.

Double Slants:

Double slants are just what is sounds, where the two outside receivers are running slants. The slant is a great man beater. Defenders are taught to not let their man get inside of them, so a good outside release fake is required. Here Ohio State state is shown running the double slant concept vs. Oregon's cover 1 in the Rose Bowl.

These are obviously not the only ways to defeat cover 3 and cover 1, but just a few of the more popular concepts that pose problems for these coverages.

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