Football Cover Three Defense

What is Cover Three Defense in Football?

Cover 3 is a specific type of zone defense handled by two cornerbacks and a free safety position. It is a three-deep and four-under zone coverage often seen at all levels of play

Cover Three Position Roles and Responsibilities

In a Cover 3 defense, the three defensive backs split the defensive backfield into thirds, with the free safety covering the middle third and the cornerbacks covering the outer thirds. The safety is referred to as free because the player will wander where needed and serve as the last defensive player in the line. The strong safety covers the curl or flat zone on the strong side, and the linebackers have responsibility for coverage of the curl or flat zones.

Cover Three Pros and Cons

There are various strengths and weaknesses when considering a Cover 3 zone defense. For a strength, Cover 3 zone coverage is great when it comes to defending a run and pass offensive play. It also serves to be a good standard defensive zone for a team to fall back on if every player on defense knows their roles and responsibilities well enough.

Just like a Cover 4 defense, the greatest weakness of a Cover 3 defense is its easy recognizability. The offensive team will often be able to realize it is a Cover 3 zone defense by the way the cornerbacks and free safety shift. If they correctly read the defense, they will be able to quickly call a different play and adapt accordingly.