Cover What…Cover Me…Cover 2

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What is cover 2?

  • Commonly referred to as Tampa 2 (due to the emergence of the Tampa Bay Buc), cover 2 is having both safeties providing over the top help
  • Let’s take a step back and understand exactly what cover 2 is made of.  First of all Cover 2 is not just a schema in the backfield, it is now a valid defensive set, like a 3-4, or 4-3.  It’s the mentality and the tone of your defense.  This was introduced to us by Tony Dungy.
  • How it works
    • DL
      • In a 3-4 or 4-3, the tone of your defense is set within the interior of the line, specifically the Nose Tackle in a 3-4 or Defensive Tackle in 4-3.
        • In a cover 2 D you still have these players, but they are hybrids.  Perfect example is Warren Sapp.  Sapp is a DT, but can play like a DE.  The premise of your interior line is that you would want athletic hybrid players for all four spots to create mismatches
        • Why?
          • We will get to that in a bit.
  • LBs
    • For Cover 2 D, you wouldn’t want Karlos Dansby, or Ray Lewis as your MLB, they are amazing LBs but just not right for this type of defense, why? Once again hybrid MLBs are needed.  Think Derrik Brooks, young, fast, mobile LB, that could make the tackle.  Brooks doesn’t fit the mold of the Trifecta LBs, since he is short, and not built to their liking, but is perfect fit for cover 2.
  • CBs
    • One word – aggressive.  If they can’t jam the WR at the line, no point for them to be on the team.
  • SS/FS
    • Top end speed with range. Both positions play the robber technique

How Cover 2 Works:

  • With the hybrid DLs and LBs and aggressive CB, robber FS and SS, all these characteristics build the Tampa 2
    • Responsibilities
      • DL
        • The purpose of the DL is to attack.  Since all of your linemen are athletic players, their main responsibilities is to create mismatches on the line of scrimmage and use their athleticism to beat the Olinemen.
        • Constant pressure at the QB to ruin timing routes, draws, screens etc. Main objective get to the QB before the 4th read.
    • LBs
      • Almost play a spy on the QB.
        • Reading the QB eyes to see where the play develops and get there before the pass happens
    • CBs
      • 100% jam on the line for the WRs. This is the key. But interrupting the WR routes, you cause the QB to wait for the play to develop, thus allowing your DL to get to the QB.  This is the only type of defense that CB’s set the tone.
    • SS/FF
      • Over the top help.  If the WR breaks the jam, it is now on the SS or FS to make the play.

Let’s break this down

Bills call double 1 spread, zig Y fly
formation (2 WR, 1RB, 1FB, 1 TE)

Nolan calls tampa 2 base
DL (Odrick, Langford, Merling, Starks)* Notice no big NT
LBs (Crowder, Dansby, Wake)
CB (Davis and Smith)
FS (McDainels) SS (Bell)

Pre-snap read

Fitz call his pre-set cadence. As soon as this happen, Smith and Davis both creep up the line of scrimmage, no 5 yard respect, right in the WR grill

Ball is hiked.

D side of the ball
Davis and Smith both apply the jam on their WRs jamming and taking them off the route
Dansby has Spiller eying.
Crowder take the TE, and can even jam his routes
Wake is eyeing Fitz, playing the Spy

O side of the ball
Fitz looks for his first WR, jammed at the line
Fitz looks at his secondary option, jammed at the line route is off
Fitz looks for safety, RB, TE flare, nothing
Thinks run, notices Wake with the spy.

Time’s up (5 reads, here comes Odrick), sack for 5 yard loss.

Why we would we call cover 2?

  • We wouldn’t.  Nolan might use it in certain situations but our bread and butter is placed on the 3-4 D.  However, and this is just speculations, with AJ Edds coming back from injury could this be the roaming LB that is needed to play this type of D? Time will only tell.

What are the drawbacks of cover 2?

  • Cover 2 is main purpose is to interrupt the timing of the play.  What happens if the WR, breaks jam, big play.
  • Another key factor is that the middle of the field is always open.  If you run a skinny cut post, that could translate to huge yardage.  See play below:


As you can see, if this type of play is executed correctly the slot WR, is going to the house. This the biggest disadvantage of this formation.

Any questions?

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