Reading Football Defenses – Know What’s Coming Before You Snap the Ball

Man or Zone?

Use motion to figure whether a defense is playing man to man coverage or zone. If you motion a receiver all the way across the field and one player from the defense runs all the way across with him then they are playing man coverage. If the defense just shifts and no one follows the motion man they are playing zone coverage. You should do this early in the game even on running plays on various down and distances to see if the defense is staying consistent in their coverage or see if they are mixing coverages. It is important to know whether the coverage is man or zone even if you are running the football. If the defense is playing man to man then the WR should be running off the defenders instead of blocking them.

Cover 1, 2, 3 or 4?

Once you have determined whether it’s man or zone now you need to know specifically whether it’s cover 1, 2, 3, or 4. Cover 1 is man to man coverage with a free safety in the middle of the field (also known as man free). Cover 2 is a zone coverage with 2 deep safeties that are responsible for half of the field each with the corners being responsible for the flats. Cover 2 is the most common coverage in the NFL and college right now. Cover 3 is a zone coverage with one deep safety in the middle of the field responsible for the deep middle 3rd and the cornerbacks are responsible for their respective deep thirds. In cover 3 the outside linebackers will be ufabet เข้าสู่ระบบทางเข้า responsible for the flats. Cover 4 is a zone coverage with 2 deep safeties and 2 deep corners all being responsible for 1/4th of the field. Again, outside linebackers would be responsible for the flats. Those are the four basic coverages but keep in mind that in complex defenses those coverages can be combined by playing one coverage on one side and a different coverage on the other. For this article we won’t go into that. In the next section we will talk about how to decide which of those coverages the defense is playing.

Read Corner’s Alignment

Let’s say through motion you have decided they are playing zone. We now need to know if it’s cover 2, 3, or 4. Our pre-snap read is to determine whether they have one safety in the middle of the field or two safeties splitting the field in half. If there are 2 safeties then observe how the corners are lined up. If their butt is to the sideline and they are only about 5 yards off the ball then they are playing cover 2. If they are 8 to 10 yards deep with the butt to the end zone then most likely they are playing cover 4 but it is possible that one of their safeties will drop to the middle and the other will move to the flats on the wide side of the field and they will play cover 3. It is important to determine the coverage because if you know what zone each man has you’ll know exactly where to attack them.

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