Coverage Beaters: Cover 4
By FirstDown PlayBook on Sep 28, 2015

Coverage Beaters

FirstDown PlayBook continues our definition and explanation of our five coverages in our new Coverage Beaters section today with quarters coverage or Cover 4.

There are several different ways that defenses play quarters coverage. In it’s simplest form it is played with three underneath defenders who hold off one underneath zone as they expand to another while playing four defenders deep. However, many defensive coordinators are now teaching the defense to read the release of the #2 receiver to gain extra defenders in the run game while they matchup vs route combinations. Today we will talk about the things we look for as we add passes into our Cover 4 section of FirstDown PlayBook Coverage Beaters.

Get The Ball Out Of Your Hand

The nature of quarters coverage says that there are holes in the underneath coverage when the ball is snapped. The key for the offense is to understand where and to get the ball out quickly to that area. Knowing how deep the corners are aligned and the width of the curl/flat defender will go a long way to help determining this. If the cornerbacks are playing with a lot of cushion and the curl/flat defender is tight then banging a three step hitch route might be one of the best ways to hurt quarters. If the curl/flat defender is wider then slants and routes that attack inside are better.

Run Someone Through The Safety

Regardless of which type of quarters coverage the defense plays the safety will have your #2 receiver if he runs vertical. For this reason one common way to attack this area is to run #2 vertical and then run another receiver into that area after it is cleared out. It can be the #1 receiver to the same side of the “clear out” receiver or even a receiver from the opposite side if his split will allow him to get to this voided area in time.


Cover 4 F

Grab The Quarters Safety

If the #2 receiver or Tight End will threaten the quarters safety vertically early in the route and then sit down in front of him on a stationary route the quarters safety will break up on this route. Eventually the safety will get nosey and try to make a play on this route. When this happens another effective way to make his life hard is to run a Dig or a Post behind this stationary route for a big play. This puts the corner in a one on one situation and often times the corner has lost his inside leverage on #1.

Play-action Pass

When you play a quarters coverage team it becomes very obvious that the defensive coaches give the safeties a lot of responsibility. This also holds true in the run game. Defensive coaches want the safeties involved late in the run game after they read their run/pass keys. For this reason play-action passes are an excellent way to put the safeties in a conflict of assignment situation. This not only gives you a chance to generate positive passing game yardage by throwing behind the safety that bites on the run. It also will help to back the safeties up after this and allow you to establish a running attack later in the game.


As we mentioned earlier there will be holes in the underneath zones of quarters coverage when the ball is snapped. Spread and empty sets are a good way to get your backs and receivers into those underneath zones quickly. If you are playing a team that does not check out of quarters coverage vs these type of formations then spread the defense out. This will allow you to quickly get multiple receivers out on “spot” type routes that hurt the coverage underneath.

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