The middle of the field open family of coverages consists of 4 base coverages; cover 2, cover 2 man, cover 4, and cover 0. By the "middle of the field open", we mean that there is no safety directly in the middle of the field. There are either two safeties lined up just inside or just outside the hashes, or no deep safeties in the at all.
The following diagram shows the zone responsibilities for each defender in cover 2. As you notice, there are two deep safeties which would cue you that barring a rolled coverage (which I will explain in a future post), this narrows it down to one of three coverages which are: cover 2, cover 2 man, and cover 4.
The quarterback is able to determine that cover 2 is being played by the following defensive cues:
1) 2 deep safeties most aligned 12-14 yards depth, on or just outside the hash
2) corners will be at a depth of less than 4-6 yards with outside leverage on the #1 receiver with their eyes looking in
Some pre-snap shots of cover 2:
Cover 2 man
Cover 2 man still employs two deep safeties much like cover 2. However, it is a man concept underneath and the responsibilities of the safeties change. They are true "free" safeties now which read the QB's eyes and play over the top of all routes. When differentiating cover 2 and cover 2 man, looking at the eyes and leverage of the corners will be the determinate. The alignment from all the defenders is very similar except they will match the splits of the receivers.
Cover 4, also called "quarters" is another MOFO coverage concept. The following diagram shows typical alignment and responsibilities for a cover 4 concept.
Cover 4 is a little bit different beast, that it is a zone coverage that employs a lot of pattern matching and some man concepts. This is how a QB will determine quarters coverage:
1) two deep safeties, usually not quite as deep and aligned more narrow than cover 2 safeties
2) corners will be at a depth of 8-10 yards with outside leverage
Some pre-snap shots of quarters coverage:
Cover 0 is a coverage that employs zero deep safeties and is a popular coverage when offenses are deep in the red zone or other short yardage situations. It is a true man coverage with no safety help over the top. The following diagram outlines cover 0.
How a quarterback will be able to determine cover 0:
1) Safeties will be at a depth of less than 8 yards and lined up over the #2 receiver.
2) Corner depth will be less than 5 yards with inside leverage and eyes on #1 receiver
Pre-snap shots of Cover 0:
Like mentioned in the previous post, defensive coaches will attempt to disguise the coverages as much as possible to cloudy the picture for the QB. For example, lining corners up at a depth of 10 yards to give a cover 4 look and bringing them down at the snap in order to disguise cover 2 is a common move. There are also special coverages that teams are playing nowadays that break these guidelines I have outlined in the last two posts. Those coverages will be broken down in a future post.
A few things to remember and teach your QB to help him to identify coverages successfully pre-snap.
1) Safeties- how many? depth? width?
2) corners- depth? eyes? leverage?
By knowing how to answer these questions correctly and what these answers mean, your QB will be more confident and have a better idea of what he's going to be seeing post-snap.