Film Room Field Trip : Earl Thomas as Single High Safety

Ok, I’m going to make you guys work for today’s film room post. You’re going to have to follow links to get to the actual “film” part. And there’s to be no complaining because a) it’s not hard to do and b) I’m not enough of a rebel to knowingly post illegal footage on my website, so you’re supporting a good cause.

Today we’re going to learn how to find the single high safety through the excellent work of Seattle free safety Earl Thomas. He’s all kinds of crazy back there – due largely to the fact that Pete Carroll is all kinds of crazy when it comes to developing defenses. The Seahawks were hanging out near the bottom of the pile of the league’s best defenses before his arrival; now they live at the top of the list.

Earl Thomas is their resident single high safety when they use that coverage (and most of the time, they do). Take a look at two of the great interceptions he made last season: Here, a Pick 6 against the Bills, and here, in a comeback attempt against the Falcons in the playoffs.

He comes out of nowhere to pick those passes, right? Exactly. Let’s figure out how to find him using his interception against the Redskins in the Wildcard round. Watch the pick here, and then watch it again and again and again.

So where did he come from?! Let’s take a look from an overhead perspective. Here’s the first look the Redskins see as they approach the line of scrimmage:

football, advanced, safety

The Seahawks are so good with this they aren’t even trying to disguise it. They’re going to run the single high and they’re going to beat you with it…and you’re going to know it’s coming the whole time.

Taking a look at that screen shot might give you a bit of sympathy for quarterbacks trying to read the defense when contrasting it with this screen shot:

football, advanced, safety

Oh yeah, people are moving and shaking. Except for Earl. He’s still back there taunting you as the single high.

Let’s see if anything changes once the ball is snapped:

football, advanced, safety

There’s a bit of movement, but mostly everyone is set. And it’s blindingly clear who’s hanging out up top as the single high. Earl!

Here’s a question: just from what you see on the field, is this Cover 1 or Cover 3?

One high safety playing zone with three defensive backs playing man up front = Cover 1! (If that’s clear as mud – have no fear. We’ll go over how to figure out who’s on the field and what they’re doing with one simple trick in next Monday’s Fundamentals post.)

Let’s take a look at the actual interception:

football, advanced, safety

See how Thomas is closing in from the inside? We can tell he’s coming at the ball from the middle of the field as the single high safety. And see how Brandon Browner, 39, is defending from the outside? He was the defensive back on the line playing man against the wide receiver.

Once you have the foundation of Cover 1/2/3 and man vs. zone, finding the single high safety isn’t hard at all. Can I get an amen?!

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