Film Room : Coverage, Billick Style

I’m bringing in reinforcements.

The real big guns.

Coach Billick, Super Bowl winning coach and FOX NFL analyst, is here to explain Cover 2, Tampa 2, and Cover 3 in the perfect way only he can. From the looks of the video I’m a little concerned that he was held hostage in a basement by rabid Ravens fans when this was taped, but he seems to be in good spirits so we’ll move right along. (As for the guy who asked the first question – he looks/sounds like he could be Billick’s long lost brother in another life, doesn’t he?)

Don’t worry, there’s a second video! But first, let’s go over some notes from Round 1:

  • Plain and simple, just like we like it: Cover 2 = 2 guys deep.
  • Coach explained that most defenses fall into two basic categories: man or zone. Within the zone category, you can either play 2-deep or 3-deep.
  • This example is out of a 40 front. You might have heard that and been like, “Coach, hold the phone.” But you’ve already got this! A 40 front is just a defense with 4-down linemen, or a 4-man rush. So what do we already know about a 4-man front? That’s the same as the 4-3 front! That little hyphen between the 4-3 can and often is taken out so that it’s called a “43” front – same thing. So when Coach Billick says the play is out of a 40 front, it just means that there are 4 defensive linemen up front. (Psssh. You’re so ahead of the game and you didn’t even know it!)
  • We’ve seen this! The deep part of the field is split into two sections, covered by the 2 deep safeties. The mid-portion of the field is split into five sections, covered by the 5-under players (linebackers and corners, in this case).
  • Coach Billick points out that 2-deep zone is effective against teams that like to throw lots of short passes for consistent gain. Why? There’s a bevy of people in that midsection of the field, and it’s going to be pretty tough to complete a pass in the middle of the mayhem.
  • I love this: he wants to beat you with numbers, angles, or names. Coaches either want more people than you’ve got in the anticipated area of action, better angles on the action, or better players than the ones on your team. Not a bad mission statement.
  • The Cover 2 isn’t just for passing plays! Corners can come up and protect against the edges should a running play be called.
  • The weakness in the Cover 2? The “2” part. If the offense sends “3 verts” of “4 verts” – meaning 3 or 4 receivers running vertically up the field – there are only 2 guys back there to cover all of them.

So how do defenses fix that? Enter: the Tampa 2.

  • To “cheat” a safety is less scandalous than it sounds, and it doesn’t just happen to safeties. “Cheating” a player just means moving him to another location. In Tampa 2, the safeties move out to the far ends of the field to cover corner routes.
  • As we know, the middle linebacker is then brought up the seam to take away the middle passing lane.
  • You’re not crazy – Tampa 2 really is the same as having 3-deep. It’s just football: things are never what they seem.
  • We’ve seen this, too! In Cover 3, there are 3-deep – but it’s not 2 safeties and a linebacker. It’s two corners and the free safety. The strong safety moves under and hangs with the linebackers (so it’s 4-under).
  • “If a team is 30% man on a 60 snap game, so 20 snaps in man, the remaining coverages will be some form of 2, Tampa 2, or Cover 3.” Just revel in that sentence for a minute because that’s coach speak, and you know exactly what it means.
  • You rock.

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