Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quarters Coverage- What is it and what gives it fits?

Unfortunately, for offensive coaches like myself, the days of the spot dropping cover 4 are pretty much over. In it's place has come a new quarters concept, which allows for the defensive to cover less grass and more receivers. The quarters concept is based upon the safeties reading the release of the #2 receiver to their side. I would consider quarters to be part of the robber family of coverages, as the safeties are "robbing" depending on the route combo. You can read one of my earlier posts on robber coverage here. First, let's look at why defensive coaches tend to be playing more and more of this coverage.

  • It provides a 4-deep look to take away four verticals from the offense

  • Safeties can be heavily involved in the run game, providing 9 run defenders

  • There is not much adjustment to different formations and motion

  • It prevents the secondary from covering grass instead of receivers by a defender doubling another defender when his "zone" isn't threatened

  • It provides the same look pre-snap

  • It forces the offense to throw short and outside

  • Easy to get into other coverages from a similar look

In quarters, the safeties are reading the #2 reciever and reacting according to what they do. The #2 receiver can only do one of four things: block in the run game, release vertical, release inside, and release outside. Here are the general rules and reactions according to what the #2 receivers does.

  • #2 blocks in the run game- the safety to that side will fill his run fit

  • #2 release vertical (10 yards)- the safety will cover him man

  • #2 release inside- he will make an "IN" call to the LB's and help with #1 to his side

  • #2 release outside- he will double #1 inside and the OLB will cover #2 man

For diagrams of playing different concepts in quarters, visit here. Also on Chief Pigskin.com, Washington (IL) head coach Darrell Crouch explains their quarters coverage in this video.

How to beat quarters coverage:

Quarters coverage begs offensives to throw to the flat for 5-6 yards at a time. Many, will make a cover 2 adjustment after the snap if they are getting hurt continuously with the quick game to the flat. However, speed outs, hitches, and other quick game concepts are great answers to quarters. If you're in a 3rd and medium or long, or a situation where you have to get the ball down the field there are some options.

Double moves by the outside receivers:

Because the corners have limited help in the flats, they are reading the #1 receivers for short breaking routes. This leaves them vulnerable to hitch and go and other double moves.

The "fishing" concept:

A concept created by Steve Axman, the fishing concept attempts to "bait" the safety into taking the #2 receiver on an anchor/curl route leaving a large area of field behind him uncovered. #1 runs a post, with basically man coverage. The following video isn't great because you cannot see the route development and the reaction of the secondary, but after the pass is thrown you can see the post coming very open and the safety covering the #2 receiver on an anchor route at about 12 yards.

"In and up routes":

At the 2:25 mark the Colts use an "in and up" concept to get into the end zone versus the Jets in the AFC championship game. Austin Collie, lined up as the #2 receiver releases inside and makes the top side safety think he is running a crossing route. By rule if the #2 receiver goes inside he helps with #1. Collie then turns his route vertical where the safety has vacated for a TD.


  1. Some good ideas on attacking Quarters. The flats are definitely the weakness, we stress to our kids that we're giving it up. Corners have to be sound tacklers because they will get hitched to death, but not many OCs will do it the entire game.
    We could run up to 6 different checks in a game based on formations and opponent tendencies to try to avoid having the same weakness all the time.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I've been out of town working a couple camps and visiting family. As an offensive guy, like you said, it's very difficult to keep attacking the flats when you have that whole play sheet in front of you!

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