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Today virtually every good high school QB coming into Division I football can identify the differences between Cover 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and the basic terminology mentioned below. Champion Students are also educated and coached on various defensive schemes beyond the following coverages.

The days of playing one primary defense in the secondary are long gone. The reason is...if a defense plays too much of any one coverage or look in the secondary whether it be man or zone, they know they will eventually get burned as each coverage can be broken down and dissected . Good coaching at the junior high, high school, and college level will ensure that their Quarterback has a firm grasp and understanding of the five (5) coverages below:

Cover 0 refers to pure man coverage with no deep defender/safety help. Cover 0 utilizes an extra rusher at the expense of deep coverage help leaving each pass defender "on an island" with his man.

In cases like this the QB is going to look to get rid of the ball quickly versus the rush. If protection holds up the offense often makes a big play versus this defense. If not then the defense usually gets in a good shot on the QB or at least forces a very rushed throw.

Cover 1 schemes include only one deep defender, usually a safety. Many underneath coverages paired with Cover 1 shells are strictly man-to-man with LBs and defensive backs each assigned a different offensive player to cover. By using only one deep defender in Cover 1, the other deep defender is free to blitz the quarterback or provide man-to-man pass coverage help.

"1" safety deep means there will be a single safety in the middle of the field when the QB is under center and scanning the defense. Generally the single safety will guard the deep middle of the field on pass plays and in some cases he may to asked to provide some double team support if there is a dominant WR in the game that needs to be defended closely.

In traditional Cover 2 schemes the free safety (FS) and strong safety (SS) have deep responsibilities, each guarding half (1/2) of the field. Cover 2 can be run from any seven-man defensive fronts such as the 3-4 and the 4-3.

Teams that play Cover 2 shells usually ascribe to the "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy, preferring to keep offensive players in front of them for short gains while limiting long passes. This is in stark contrast to a more aggressive Cover 1 type scheme which leaves the offensive team's wide receivers in single man-to-man coverage with only one deep helper.

The main weakness of the Cover 2 shell occurs in the middle of the field between the safeties. The safeties attempt to gain width upon the snap of the ball to cover any long passes to quick wide receivers down the sideline. This movement creates a natural hole between the safeties that can be attacked. By sending a receiver (usually a tight end) into the hole, the offense forces the safety to make a decision: play the vulnerable hole in the middle of the field or help out on the wide receiver.

A variation of Cover 2 is called the Tampa 2, where the middle linebacker drops to the deep middle part of the field. The Tampa 2 requires a quick middle linebacker who is capable of staying with tight ends and wide receivers in pass coverage.

Cover 3 is the other main form of "1" safety deep. Cover 3 is similar to Cover 1 in that the QB will only see one safety deep in the middle of the field. However it differs from Cover 1 in that it is a three deep zone and not merely a single safety deep zone. Cover 3 refers to 3 deep defenders each guarding one-third (1/3) of the deep part of the field. Cover 3 schemes are usually used to defend against passes, mainly those towards the deep middle of the field.

The main difference between Cover 1 and Cover 3 is that after the snap the CB's will back off and not press the WR's at the line of scrimmage.

Cover 4 defense or "Quarters" coverage is the other main type of zone defense in the "2" deep family. Cover 4 schemes are usually used to defend against deep passes and is also referred to as 'prevent' defense. Cover 4 is like Cover 2 in that two safeties are deep but normally the two corner backs are playing off the line of scrimmage as well. They can either line up tight and bail into this coverage or line up off the WR and play loose the whole time. The concept is simply to play a four deep zone across the back with the three LB's playing a zone underneath. This strategy is used when the defense is willing to sacrifice the short throw and stop deep passes on instances like 3rd and 12 for example.