Zone Coverages of the 50 Defense


I grew up playing against a true 50 defense in middle school and high school. Our defensive coordinator called it a 3-4, but he was bringing both OLB’s the majority of the time. We played a lot of zone defense. The defensive linemen two – gapped on a large percentage of our snaps. Now, this was before the invention of the spread, but there are good high school football teams that run a 50 defense and are successful against the spread.

This post will discuss how to use the 50 defense successfully with regards to zone coverage.

50 Defense Zone Coverages – Cover 8 (Quarters Coverage)

The first coverage we are going to discuss is cover 8. Some people call this quarters, palms, or 2 read, but it is the same basic concept. The corners and safety will read #2 and match the routes of the receivers. I have used the term cover 8 over my coaching career, so that is what it is listed as on the following diagram:50 defense zone coverage quarters coverage There has been much debate on when / if you should lock the routes of #1 and #2. I prefer to have the corner take all of #2 when #2 runs an out because it eliminates confusion.

Wofford plays their 2 read concept like that and if it is good enough for them, then it is good enough for me. You can drop the Sam if Cover 8 if you want to rush 4 or play it versus trips.

Cover 8 works well against 1 receiver and 2 receiver sets, but if you still want to bring both OLB’s, then you need to change your coverage to cover 3.

50 Defense Zone Coverages – Cover 3

Cover 3 is a common trips check for many defenses, and from what I have seen, most 50 defenses always check cover 3 to trips. The following diagram shows a strong rotation of cover 3:

cover 3 50 zone defense

Cover 3 is one of the most basic coverages in football, and you can run it against all formations if you so desire. It is a great coverage if you want to get an extra defender to the strength / weak side of the formation.

Just like any coverage, it has holes, but you can still defend 4 verticals with cover 3. If you want to rush 4, the Will linebacker would drop in cover 3.

I have a place in my heart for the 50 defense and if anyone has material they would be willing to share, I would love to learn more about the 50 defense. Thank you for reading my article and I would greatly appreciate your feedback! My email is and my Twitter handle is @zachdavis24. God bless you as you progress through your season!