3-4 Cover 2 Man Under Defense


In the era of the spread offense it has become essential to employ a defense that can maximize numbers in the box and still provide excellent pass coverage. Offenses are using the entire field and defenses must be able to defend from sideline to sideline and still have enough players in the box to stop the run. Our base defense was a 4-2-5 this past season, but we played a 3-4 cover two man look versus pure spread teams (Air Raid / Tony Franklin System).

In our classification we see mostly 21/22 personnel but when we play teams that are mainly 10/11 personnel we utilized our 3-4 cover 2 man defense. The following paragraphs will detail the reads, alignment and assignment of each position in our two man package.

3-4 Cover 2 Man Defensive Line

The key to stopping the run in this defense is to mix in slants and playing base. Our defensive linemen will play a “base” technique where our defensive ends will play a 5 technique and our nose will two gap the center.

We will also slant the line right or left depending on the opponent’s formation tendencies. The reducing defensive end will slant to a 3 technique, the nose will slant to a 2i and the end to the side of the slant will play a 5 technique. The linemen are responsible for spilling all kick-out/traps and for the dive versus option.

3-4 cover 2 man under

Basic Look. No Slanting

Inside Linebacker Run Fits in the Cover 2 Man Defense

We do not assign the Inside Linebackers a gap to fill, we tell them to read the guard to the near back and attack the play with the appropriate technique.

If they see a drive block, they shock and lock the linemen, locate the football, and then they use a rip move to disengage.

If they get a down block, they scrape to the next available gap unless the B gap opens up.

If they see a reach block, they will scrape to the next open gap.

If they see a pull, they scrape in the direction of the pull and locate the ball carrier and fill inside out.

If they see a down block and an isolation block by the fullback, they will take it on with their inside shoulder and spill the football to the safeties / outside linebackers who are folding.

Inside Linebacker Pass Responsibilities in the Cover 2 Man Defense

The responsibilities’ of the inside linebackers on passing plays is very simple. When there is a single back, one will be responsible for the back and the other will play the low hole, collision crossers and spy the quarterback.

When we slant the defensive line, we will lose a contain rusher, but the inside linebacker in the cover 2 man defense is responsible for the QB if he scrambles. Versus two backs they have #3 strong out of the backfield because the outside linebacker (our Dog) will take #2 weak.

We make their life very simple in the passing game because they have a huge responsibility in the run game.

Outside Linebacker (Dog) Responsibilities in the Cover 2 Man Defense

The Dogs (OLB) have the most responsibility in this defense. They are spill players versus kick out blocks, set the edge versus toss sweeps and stretch, play press man to man coverage on the #2 or #3 receiver and rotate back to a deep ½ safety versus jet and long motion.

They practice with the safeties because they have similar responsibilities and must be able to play man to man coverage and break on the ball as a deep ½ player.

When they become a deep ½ safety they read the tackle, guard and near back to get a run pass read. If they get a run read they get to 5 yards on their side and are the force player if the ball is run to their side and if they are on the backside they are the bootleg, cutback, reverse (BCR) player.

Safety Responsibilities in the Cover 2 Man Defense

The Safeties must be the brains of this cover 2 man defense! They must have enough athletic ability to be a deep ½ player and be a significant part of our run fits. They align 10 x 2 from the EMOLOS, and they read the guard/ tackle area and the near back because “two don’t lie”. They will get their run/pass read from those three players.

They do not approach the LOS unless they know it is run and the phrase we use is, “Don’t go if you don’t know.” If they get a run read they get to 5 yards on their side and are the force player if the ball is run to their side and if they are on the backside they are the bootleg, cutback, reverse (BCR) player.

When they get a pass read, they are deep ½ players who get their key off of the front shoulder of the quarterback. They are responsible for being deeper than the deepest on pass plays, but they have the ability to jump underneath routes if the quarterback’s front hand comes off of the football and his indicator (front shoulder) is pointed towards an underneath route.

Versus jet/ long motion the safety will rotate down and have the motion player man to man and be a force player versus the run. It is important that they recognize the formation on every snap and anticipate motion. They must be the most aware players on the field and be able to communicate the formation and possible motions based on the scouting report.

Cornerback Responsibilities in the Cover 2 Man Defense

The Corners’ job is very simple, play man coverage on the #1 receiver, and if the #1 receiver crosses the formation with motion he will spin back to a deep half safety look.

The corners must be very good athletes and be able to play press man coverage. They have help over the top, but they must be able to defend against the slant, fast screen, and the out cut. They are in outside leverage press man, so they can play trail technique on a vertical route because of the safety help.

We make their assignments very simple because they must be totally focused on shutting down all short and intermediate routes.

Alignment in the Cover 2 Man Defense

The following PowerPoint slides detail how we align to 2×2, 3×1, 2×1 and empty in the Cover 2 Man Defense. We keep the alignment rules simple so we can play fast and align properly on every play.

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

The following slide shows how we adjust to jet motion. It is a very simple adjustment that allows us to keep leverage on the jet sweep, flood, and slant/slant/shoot.

3-4 cover 2 man under defense

The 3-4, Cover 2 man under defense was very effective for us this year against spread teams and it allowed our players to play fast and take away the easy throws.

Please feel free to email me at zach.davis24@gmail.com if you have any questions. I have cutups I can send over Hudl, and I am always willing to answer any questions you may have about this defense. Thank you for reading this article and God bless!


One thought on “3-4 Cover 2 Man Under Defense

  1. Mike

    Great stuff. We are implementing a 3-4 this year. This certainly is good information and or a wrinkle to our man and cover 3 schemes.

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