Football Cover Two Defense

What is Cover Two Defense in Football?

Cover 2 defense in football gets its name from the two safeties playing deep zones on the field. The two deep zones in this formation refer to either half of the deep defensive backfield. The free safety (FS) is responsible for the routes on the weak side of the field and the strong safety (SS) is responsible for the routes on the strong side.

Cover 2 Formations

The Cover 2 defense is typically run in a 4-3 alignment consisting of four defensive linemen (two defensive tackles and two defensive ends) and three linebackers. The roles and responsibilities of players change depending on whether they are running a Cover 2 zone defense or a Cover 2 man defense.

Cover 2 Zone Position Roles and Responsibilities

There are two safeties in every Cover 2. Each safety plays about 15 yards above the line of scrimmage and always needs to be deeper on the field than the deepest receiver. The free safety is responsible for the routes on the left side of the field, and the strong safety is responsible for the routes on the right side.

The middle linebacker (MLB) has an important role in Cover 2. With both safeties split out wide and covering the outside, the middle of the field is completely open. The middle linebacker has a “mid read”, meaning they start out covering the short middle of the field. This includes covering closer to the line of scrimmage and seeing if it is a run play or play-action pass. The middle linebacker is responsible for keeping their eyes on the quarterback.

The outside linebackers (OLB) drop back into coverage right away, each one headed to the opposite outside hash marks. The main responsibility of outside linebackers is to cover deep flat or curl zones. One of the OLBs or MLB will sometimes line up across from the slot receiver.

Cornerbacks (CB), typically cover the flat zones and start on the field facing the outside wide receivers across the line of scrimmage. Before the cornerback begins to cover the flat, they usually play press coverage and check the wide receivers (WR) at the line of scrimmage. This contact at the line gives the safeties a head start on backpedaling down the field to position themselves so that no receiver will be behind them.

Cover 2 Man Position Roles and Responsibilities

In Cover 2 man, the free safety and strong safety maintain the same two-deep zone coverage. The cornerbacks, however, now play strictly man-to-man coverage on the wide receivers. The middle linebacker in this Cover 2 concept also switches to man coverage, normally covering either the tight end or running back and the outside linebacker taking the other.

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