Kickoff Coverage Techniques Show Up This Weekend
By FirstDown PlayBook on Sep 8, 2019


As we watched some of the football games this weekend we noticed an age old problem that shows up with kickoff coverage every season. As the new rules have emerged that are designed to make the special teams game safer, there are more one on one situations that take place on kickoff cover and return.

Teaching your players when to avoid a one on one block and when to take it on with a two gap technique is always tricky. The rule of thumb for our teaching has always been once you are 15 yards or closer to the returner the cover guys should use the two gap technique. If your coverage players are closer than 15 yards to the returner, odds are that using the avoid techniques will not allow them an opportunity to get back in their coverage lane.

If the cover guy is more than 15 yards away from the returner using an “Avoid” technique allows them to get to the returner with the least amount of resistance and still get back in their coverage lane. As you can see from the drawings below, we teach two separate techniques to use when avoiding a block. Both of these techniques involve attacking the edge of the return blocker.

The “Rip” technique involves the ripping back across the blockers face to defeat the block. The “Whip” technique involves whipping the blocker with speed to that same side. Once again, it is important to understand that regardless of the technique you use, your player must get back into his coverage lane before getting to the returner.

Once your coverage personnel gets within 15 yards of the ball and the returner has not declared his direction here are some coaching points for a two gap technique.

The cover guy cannot slow down. A lot of players will slow down into contact because the returner has not declared which direction he is going. This just puts him in a no win situation because the easiest player to block is one that is stationary or playing slow.

His feet must stay active never ceasing to press to the football. He must accelerate through contact and create separation from the blocker as he determines the ball carrier’s intention. Also, the fact that he and his teammates are still pressing to the ball will also make the returner flush one direction or the other sooner.

The separation that is created is no different than any other phase of football. He must bend his knees and get under the blocker as he enters contact. Then the cover guy must get his hands inside of the blocker’s hands.

This is going to greatly increase his chances of getting separation from the blocker so that he can find the football. It is also going to allow him to get off of that block when he sheds to go make a tackle.

After he finds the ball it is important that he violently gets rid of the blocker. We’ve all seen the coverage man who goes down and enters into contact on the blocker only to remain stuck on him as the returner sprints by.

The key is that his feet and hands stay active and he is violent as he gets off of the block to the ball side. There is also a point to be made that a two gap technique doesn’t always require the coverage man to lock up on the blocker. Sometimes the fastest guys to the football shock the blocker and neutralize him as they hardly break stride to the ball.

Like all fundamentals and techniques, these will only be as effective as the amount of time dedicated to practicing them. The good news is that these techniques are very similar to the ones that your defensive coaches are already teaching. Once your coverage personnel starts using these techniques at full speed we think that you will like the results as your 2019 season plays out!

FirstDown PlayBook is the only Digital Football PlayBook that gives you access to over thirty five thousand football plays, schemes and technique help all designed by coaches and players with NFL experience. FirstDown Playbook is also the official PlayBook resource of USA Football and Football Canada..