FirstDown PlayBook Coverage Beaters: Cover 3

By FirstDown PlayBook on Dec 27, 2020

FirstDown PlayBook will take some time over the next few weeks to look into our Coverage Beaters section and talk about what we look for when we attack each coverage. The FirstDown PlayBook Coverage Beaters section is always a favorite with 7on7 coaches and players, as well as coaches who like to throw the ball during the season!

FirstDown PlayBook defines Cover 3 as strong or weak safety rotation with zone coverage. We know most of you differentiate between strong and weak roll with a different number or call it 3 weak but for the sake of our Cover Beaters section Cover 3 will mean strong or weak.

Look For Holes In The Underneath Zones

The very nature of Cover 3 says that there are three deep defenders and four underneath defenders. There are four defenders to cover five underneath zones. These underneath defenders must expand inside out to cover two zones. They are either a Hook/Curl or a Curl/Flat defenders.

One of the first things to look for are ways to get eligible receivers running into and sitting down in those underneath zones. You will see a lot of curl and hook type route opportunities. You will also find three step combinations like a slant – flat routes designed to expose the curl/flat or hook/curl defenders.

Look For Corner Cushion That Provides Quick Outside Throws

When we talked about Cover 1 a few days ago, we looked outside vs man coverage if we liked the match up. In a different way, the same thing holds true for Cover 3. There are times when a cornerback is playing with enough depth that your quarterback can get a quick throw to your outside receiver. This lets the receiver make the corner miss before the curl/flat defender gets there. This is not real fancy but it often puts the ball in the hands of one of your best players in space because they are playing off.

All Is Not Lost Deep

When the middle of the field is closed and it is man coverage you normally think outside with a four vertical attack. The two seam receivers will occupy the free safety and allow the outside receivers to compete one on one.

When it is middle of the field closed and it is zone coverage your outside receivers should be covered by the corners. However, if your tight end or slot receivers keep width on a four vertical concept they will put the free safety in a bind. This allows your QB to throw opposite of the deep safety on a seam throw.

Don’t Run Through Zones

If you want to keep your receivers healthy, and to get them open vs cover 3 or any zone coverage, do not allow them to run through zones. When you coach routes vs zone you have to be ready to talk more about throttling down in holes. Receivers should be coached to work away from a defender’s leverage as opposed to coming out of breaks for separation like you would vs man coverage.

Look Away From Safety Rotation

Most teams are going to give you some type of two high shell with the safeties even when they plan to play strong or weak roll. One way to teach a young quarterback a simple three man progression is to mirror the routes on both sides. Sit your back down as #3 in the middle. This way your quarterback has the same progression to either side. He just has to choose the best side to work. Often times a good way to teach this to a young quarterback is to read away from safety rotation.

Get In Cover 3 Formations

Sometimes we act like we have nothing to say about what coverage the defense runs. Wrong. If your team has a formation that they can run the ball out of then you are going to get a closed middle of the field to stop the run. If the team you are playing gets in Cover 3 to stop your run game take advantage of it. Also, consider throwing it with play-action to make it that much harder on the defense.

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