Exposing our Nickel and Dime Coverage

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Big Ben and Mike Wallace


We are in 3-3-5 Nickel

3 – DLmen (Starks, Solai and Langford)
3 – LBs (Crowder, Wake and Dansby)
5 – CBs (Allen, Davis, Sapp, Bell and Clemons)

Call was 3-3-5 Nickel deep 2 shadow Robber

Breaking down the film the first thing that jumps out on me is the cushion that Jason Allen is giving Mike Wallace.  It’s almost 10 yards and yet he was still beaten.

Secondly, look at Bell, bottom right hand of the screen shot, he is playing an underneath deep 2 shadow on Hines Wards (-since he was schooling Sapp). This should automatically tell you that Clemons is the Robber


Reviewing the game tape, we can see that Clemons was playing way too off on the Robber assignment value.

The Robber is the safety net of the Defence; the last line of attack.  Since Bell crept up to play the deep shadow 2, it is up to Clemons to read the field and assist his fellow secondary team members.

Since J Al was looking for a post or a skinny route and not a fly, he got burned by the speed of Wallace. J Al was also playing a very soft cushion on Wallace which should have allowed him to at least keep up with Wallace.

Where was the over the top help? Bell was playing the deep 2, and Clemons was playing the Robber in the middle of the field, he should have noticed that the J Al was getting beaten on the fly route, but he was at least 5 to 10 yards away.  This was a blown assignment by Clemons which lead to the big play.

How we do correct this, we need to ensure that when the Robber is called under this coverage, Clemons needs to back pedal and not creep up so much.  He is on an island, and with the 2 deep shadow call, he should know that Bells has the underneath assignment and Clemons is over the top.  This mistake was costly as it lead to 7pts by the Steelers.

 Edwards and Parrish


Our Defence is in hybrid Dime coverage

3 – DLmen (Misi, Starks and McDaniel)
1 – LBs (Dansby)
7– CBs (Allen, Davis, Sapp, Bell, Clemons, Smith and Culver)

Nolan calls Sky formation 4 deep zone.

First thing that jump out, is that Bell is now playing a MIKE LB position (-we saw this in Green Bay when Rodger scored on the QB draw)

Everyone else is playing a soft 4 deep zone.

What is a 4 deep zone:
Coverage responsibilities are a straight drop back. If there are 5 CBs each takes a lane of the field. Think of the field as a swimming pool.  Each CB has to stay in their lane and cover anything that comes into their lane…short and long.

 Ball is hiked and what we see here is blown coverage assignment:


Look at Sapp, instead of playing in his lane – he is now verging off in a cover 3 assignment. He is going to the red arrow as opposed to dropping back to the 4 deep yellow assignment zones

Parrish makes his move, and now realizes that he’s got an open field in front of him


Now that Sapp has blown his assignment, Parrish is wide open on the streak route and has a break with no over the top help.  Look at the yellow zone, wide open.


 Look at Parrish wide open, Sapp is 5 yards away.

Once again, Culver is the extra safety and no over the top help.  HOWEVER, this was Sapp blown coverage, we could state that he didn’t understand the playbook as he was new to our team, but let’s be honest – if you are veteran in the NFL and don’t understand a 4 deep coverage…you shouldn’t be playing.  Nolan called the right play here.

How do we correct this flaw? Simple answer is to ensure that each secondary member knows their playbook.  As we have noticed, one mistake can cause an open field advantage for the opposing offence.

The good news about both of these breakdowns is that each of these mistakes is coachable.  Nolan needs to start disciplining his secondary, bottom line.  It’s Week 8 and by now you should have an understanding of how each player reacts to a certain coverage, scheme and formation.  Nolan, earn your pay check now my friend.  We cannot continue to allow opponents to attack their will on our Defence.  Nolan stated that when he took over that it would be the other way around, but so far we have only seen the opposite.

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