Category Archives: Cover 3

3-4 Dime Personnel Package

See what coaches are learning about this 3-4 Dime Personnel Package – including Video

We are in an age of football where offenses spread the field and want to get players in space. It is essential that defenses adapt so they can limit the number of big plays and points allowed.

The 3-4 is the most versatile of all defenses and this 3-4 dime personnel package gives the defense more speed on the field and the ability to bring pressure or drop 8 into coverage.

The base coverage for this 3-4 dime personnel package is Tampa 2 with a run – thru “Star” that will run to the goalpost at 15 – 22 yards if he sees it is a pass. This package also has the ability to bring a field fire zone and a double edge pressure to keep the offense guessing. Continue reading

Multiple 3-4 Fire Zone Blitz Coverages

Coaches thought Fire Zone Blitzes Were Just Cover 3 Concepts – Then They Read This!

The term “fire zone blitz” has become a buzzword at all levels of football, and the effective use of them has shut down many offenses. In this article I will explain two fire zones blitz coverages that can be used against every style of offense.

The coverages used in these fire zone blitzes are cover 3 and cover 2, which are simple fire zone blitz coverages that are taught at even the Pop Warner level. The secret to the success of these fire zone blitzes is that you are able to disguise them, because the pre-snap look is the same to the quarterback (2 high shell).

A lot of coaches do not like to run fire zones because they seem too complex, but when you break them down you will see how simple and effective they are in creating confusion and chaos for an offense.
Continue reading

Defending the I Formation like Pete Carroll’s Seahawks Defense

The Seattle Seahawks dominated many I formation teams this year. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks defense had a nice little adjustment to pro style formations, like the I formation.

Especially in 21 personnel, 2 backs and 1 tight end, the Seahawks defense matched up well. One way they did that was playing a “heavy” end on the weakside.

Many defenses declare passing strengths instead of declaring it to a tight end and then they set the shade side, or open side, to either the tight end or the split end.

seahawks defense vs pro formation

How Many Teams Play the Over Front vs 21 personnel

The Seahawks do it a little differently. While the Seahawks defense in 2013 set the reduction, or 3 technique side, to the tight end in many situations. The nose and Sam linebacker get set to the split end. The strong safety, who I call the Rover, is set to the 3 technique side.
Continue reading

3 Ways to Defend Trips Formations from 1 Coverage Shell

Defending trips formations, even with many more spread formations, is still a tough task. Many teams will still check to one automatic blitz or one automatic coverage.

Well, that ends today! I want to show you 3 examples of how to defend trips from the exact same coverage shell.

For many of you, these are pretty safe adjustments too, meaning you’ve probably already got something like them in your playbook. You might not need my exact adjustment for defending trips formations, but maybe you can tweak your already existing concept.

We’ll present one slightly tweaked zone coverage adjustment, one man coverage adjustment, and finally a zone blitz. Again, all of these will come from the same shell. That way, you don’t need to teach new adjustments or give any tells to the offense. Continue reading

4-2-5 Defense Option Responsibilities

Post by Zach Davis

This is a post by Coach Zach Davis, defensive coordinator at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in Georgia. You can follow him on his Twitter Handle, zachdavis24. If you’re interested in guest posting for Strong Football, email CoachCP at editor[at]

We have very simple 4-2-5 defense option responsibilities because of all the different types of option we see during a season. We have seen veer, midline, shovel, power, speed and triple option this year and we have devised a simple way to play the option so our players can play FAST!

We want to hit the quarterback as often as possible when he is a ball carrier. He is the decision maker and we must “wreck the decision maker” in order for us to be successful against the option.

We take away the dive with our defensive linemen and we make the quarterback attempt a long pitch because we are sending someone to the quarterback once we realize it is option. We may be a little weak against the pitch, but at our level the pitch is not a huge threat. Continue reading

Dick LeBeau’s Mike/Will Cross Fire Zone Blitz

Dick LeBeau is an innovator, and most in coaching circles understand that. He changed the way coaches blitz with the fire zone blitz. Well, his Mike/Will Linebacker Cross Blitz is arguably one of the two most famous zone blitzes used today, only preceded by the NCAA blitz.

What makes LeBeau’s Mike Will Linebacker cross fire zone blitz so nasty is it really can hurt tight A gap runs and off tackle power and counter plays. With two of the inside linebackers exchanging responsibilities, it is hard for many teams to use these types of plays unless their players execute it at a high level, aka they make that play their bread and butter and they really practice it a lot. Continue reading

Defending the I Formation Post Snap Cover 3 Rotation

Defending the I Formation with Post Snap Cover 3 Safety Rotation

Defending the I formation, especially a well coached team, can be a daunting task. If the quarterback can throw play action, and the offensive line is physical, while also pounding you with their best athlete at tailback, a defense could be in for a long day. Add a little bit of the option or quick passing game, and this formation quickly turns into a very versatile and lethal complete offense.

One way LSU used to defend the 21 personnel, 2×1 pro I formation was with post snap safety rotation. Brophy’s LSU video by Pete Jenkins under Saban inspired this post, because at one of my first coaching stops we executed a similar tactic. I feel like it’s become lost in the shuffle with today’s spread offenses, but it’s an easy to utilize defense that inserts an extra, often unblocked defender at the point of attack while also defending the middle of the field and deep passing game fairly well.

Defending the I Formation Post Snap Cover 3 Rotation

Fullback goes left, Free Safety Comes Down, Other Safety to Deep Middle Third

Let me start with this statement, this adjustment isn’t designed to be adaptable to the Spread, as Coach Jenkins advocates. It’s designed to stop what the I formation does best. This is a lesson every defensive coach needs to learn. Running “catch all” plays that work against all formations will lead to disaster. Have plays or at least checks based off of a teams formation tendencies. For instance, if you call cover 3 and the team is in 21 personnel 2×1 pro, use post snap safety rotation. If they come out in 2×2, maybe stay in 3 if you like that, or check to something else like Quarters. Take away what the offense presents to you. This coverage specifically is used for defending the I formation.

Defending the I Formation: Identify the Backfield Key

Most I formation teams have some sort of backfield key. Most likely its the fullback. Maybe its the tailback. This is determined on a week to week basis. This backfield key will determine safety rotation. Fullback is the obvious one for I formation teams since they tend to rely on them heavily.

Also, the Linebackers need to be able to understand the key so they know which way to spill a lead block from a fullback. That’s why fullback is also easier, because Linebackers and secondary run fits often depend completely on the backfield flow.

So make sure your backfield key is a back that is easy to identify for both linebackers and the two safeties. If I had to pick, when defending the I formation, I would select the fullback. If it was a split back team, I would venture to say you could probably drop the safety to the initial dive back, though that may give you problems if both backs come up in pass protection. Another option for those teams is obviously to defend one back, perhaps their biggest playmaker, and use him as the key.

Defending the I Formation: Cover 3 Responsibilities

It’s important to simplify the coverage responsibilities across the board so your athletes continue to play fast. For instance, in the diagram below, the Sam and the Will both have the flats. The Mike has the hook to curl area opposite the key backs direction. Both corners have their respective deep third.

The only difficult one here is the backside hook to curl defender’s responsibility, so the Mike in the diagram. However, this person, in my opinion, is a run player anyways so if they utilize play action, we’re not surprised if he is slightly out of position.

I won’t go into exact details on how to play Cover 3, there are numerous articles and books that cover that topic. The biggest thing though is the safety rotation. Prior to the snap, the defense is in a 2 high, middle of the field open (MOFO) look. After the snap, the fullback can work in 3 directions. He either goes right, left, or right up the middle. If he goes up the middle, we automatically assume he is going to the tight end side. When it doubt, the fullback is to the tight end. It’s important the safeties call the side as they rotate for pass coverage and run support reasons. Run support reasons are described in the next section. The backside safety should shuffle and sprint to the deep third, eyeing any immediate #2 vertical threat as he does. Again, for pass coverage details, check out any resource on Cover 3 hook to curl responsibilities.

Defending the I Formation: Run Support Concerns

I like a Strong or Weak call for safeties as they rotate into the box post snap, for run support and pass drop reasons. If it’s to the strong side, the Mike knows he’s spilling the ball to the safety and lead block. If it’s a Weak call, the Mike knows he is forcing any blocks so the ball carrier goes to the Will linebacker and Safety to that side. The Will has similar rules to his side. This changes up the way you take on blocks when defending the I formation’s best plays as well.

Defending the I Formation Iso Play Post Snap Rotation

Defending the I Formation Iso and Dart Plays with Post Snap Rotation. Notice the different reactions of the Mike based off of the call he gets from the safety.

See the diagram above on how I formation Iso play and Tackle Wrap/Dart play would be defended with the safety rotating weak. Tackle Wrap is the same thing as Iso as a blocking concept, except the fullback and tailback go different directions. Notice how this changes the angle the Mike linebacker takes on the block. Versus Iso, he has a safety supporting him, so he spills to him. Versus Tackle Wrap/Dart, he doesn’t have a “strong” call, so he squeezes the ball carrier to the backside support.

If a blocker leads up on the down safety for some reason, the safety should funnel the back to his help on his inside.

Against the option, it really depends on how you setup your front seven as well, as well as the type of option you are facing. There are a multitude of concerns here. I believe this is honestly more of a game plan basis. Who is the offense trying to get the ball to on the option, and how can you take that away best? That may mean you don’t run the Cover 3 post snap rotation if it leaves you in a bad place. Again, this is your call as a defense.

Defending the I formation with Post Snap Safety Rotation: Is it for you?

I’m an advocate of simple defense. I’ve made that clear on here. I also am a quarters guy too. I think this would be simple if you already run cover 3 a lot. But I how well it would translate for a team that operates in mainly Quarters variations.

I wanted to show something on Strong Football that I thought was interesting and has been effective over time. If you run cover 3, this may be a nice little addition versus your 21 personnel, 2×1 pro style opponents.  It is simply a great way for coaches to adjust who have trouble defending the I formation from Cover 3. It should be relatively simple, and easy to check out of if they motion to a slot look (just rotate to the twins side). It can give you a nice advantage versus the standard I looks, especially if the team has a heavy backfield tendency.

Make sure you check out