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Film Room: The evolution of coverage

How defensive coordinators see coverage in 2019

Edward Reed #20... Getty Images archive

Today we’re going to discuss coverage, but from the defensive coordinator’s perspective. I’ve previously written a piece titled, “How offensive coordinators are defining coverage.” Coverage, from the OC’s perspective, is a slimmed down and simplified idea designed by offensive minds like Dub Maddox so their players can communicate with coaches and each other using common phrasing.

From a defensive perspective coverage is making sure a potential receiver doesn’t leak through any openings. We’re going to put the idea of coverage into two categories: full-field and split-field, and then examine “combination” coverages in the world of split-fields.

Full-field coverage

Back in the day, you’re looking at a typical 4-4 cover 3. Against a 3x1 look (three receivers to the left and one to the right of the defense)- this is how I would’ve defended the offense in a full-field concept. However, Air Raid type schemes put a stop to this. Think about Y-Cross (pictured below). If the offensive line gives the QB time, no one is there to cover the Y on Y-Cross.

It also left us open to certain running plays like speed option, and other passes like a 5-yard speed out to the X-receiver or a dig-wheel combination to the X and RB side.


Eventually with the amount of spread passing teams we began to face the 4-4 cover 3, in its generic sense, became obsolete. We started to adjust our defense into a 2-high safety look, to account for both the spread out passing schemes and with help stopping options plays and other run concepts.

So what is a split-field? It’s a defensive concept where we split the field in half at the center. Now as the defensive coordinator I can call two coverages on the same play. If a team likes certain concepts to the field side we can check our coverage accordingly, same to the boundary.

It’s helped with teams that run bubble screens, that like to run trips to the field but run the football to the boundary, and to take advantage of our talent weaknesses. For instance, if I have one speedy cornerback but one slower-stronger one; I can call man coverage for Mr. Speedy and cover 2 to protect the slow guy who can tackle.

Robber + 2

In the image above, we would call Robber 2. The robber goes to the trips. Our free safety will play the apex or at 6-yard depth splitting the difference between the end man on line (EMOL) and the #3 receiver (the H in this instance).


In the image above, the call is “quarter-quarter-half.” I would call this Cover 6. We know our coverage will be 4 or “quarter-quarter” to the trips side and our safety knows our “half” or cover 2 will be to the boundary. This allows us to switch up coverages to the field, keep similar coverage to the boundary, while not losing any coverage.


In the image above- we’re looking at split-field coverage, again. On the defense’s left we’re seeing quarter-quarter again. That’s a quarters look to that side. On the defense’s right we’re seeing MEHG or “Man Everywhere He Goes.” This allows the strong safety to drop down into the box after the snap and the will linebacker (“W”) to blitz.

How does this impact the ‘Canes?

Consider this, as Coach Baker starts to evaluate and personnel his defense- Miami is low on cornerback experience. It helps a lot to put an in experienced cornerback in man coverage and just let him run and chase guys. There isn’t a whole lot of though to that. He can also be protected by a safety over the top, in case he makes a mistake.

For instance, in the image above- Coach Baker and Coach Diaz like their pressure and Shaquille Quarterman can provide that on this look, while Pinckney can drop into coverage. On the trips side, Romeo Finley is in the flat cutting off bubbles and arrow routes, Trajan Bandy is playing the deep 13 taking away wheels, and vertical routes.

The free safety could be Gurvan Hall, Bubba Bolden or Amari Carter and Carter should also be a strong safety candidate along with Bolden. Any way you slice it- those guys don’t have a ton of experience in Baker’s scheme or in Coral Gables (besides Carter who has played some).

Al Blades Jr, D.J. Ivey, Nigel Bethel all could be the MEHG cornerback and with help over the top the youngsters won’t be as costly against a deep post. Split-field coverage is a great way to out scheme your opposing coach but also to make up for deficiencies in talent or experience on the field.