Edit on 2/13/13: I added video from Oklahoma State to the bottom of this post which shows it in action from spread sets, both in the gun and under center. Check out the video.
I’ve noticed more and more defenses utilizing 2 read, a quarters coverage variation, especially against 2×1 sets. I’m not shocked by this, because it provides a major advantage. The ability to handle slot sets and defend the vertical passing game along with the bubble/quick flat passes while maintaining your box against 2×1 sets is a great advantage.
There are some disadvantages overall, but it’s a strong solution that can cause 21 personnel 2×1 offensive coordinators some head aches. However, I was digging through some very old clinic notes, and stumbled on some from Gunter Brewer while he was at Oklahoma State. These notes provided me with some thoughts on how to force the defense to play 3 over 2 to the slot side, so that way you can open up your running game versus 2 high sets with good run players at the safety spots.
Quarters Coverage & 2 Read Principles
Before we break down how to defeat 2 read and quarters coverage overall, we need to discuss why it is so successful. Overall, 2 read specifically provides the advantages I stated earlier. It plays 2 over 2, handles the bubble and flat passes while using the basic cover 4 or quarters coverage principles to handle the vertical and intermediate passing game. This means throwing windows are usually tight.
As you can see in these examples, which I drew because my computer literally died yesterday evening, the corner and free safety are able to handle many different popular route concepts, and also are able to handle longer developing routes until other players, like the Will and the Rover in this drawing, are able to insert into the coverage as well.
Below, you will also see how the 2 read quarters coverage variation also handles the bubble route by the slot (or number two) receiver. In addition, you can see how the curl/flat play is also easily covered by this concept.
Overall, the two read quarters coverage variation also provides strong run support. The defense can still get 9 men in the box very quickly and can easily support both sides of the running game, quickly out-leveraging the offense and also providing strong support versus teams that run the option.
Another quarters coverage variation, which I consider a robber look, has become popularized by the TCU 4-2-5 defense. The idea is to out-leverage the #2 receiver with a defender, and play a deep safety directly between that slot player and the end man on the line of scrimmage. In the example below, you can see the basic alignment. This is the set we, as 21 personnel teams that like to run the football, would rather see because they are essentially playing 3 defenders over 2 receivers. Even though the free safety is in a good position to play the run, he’s not in a great position and it puts a talented back, hopefully, one one one with a safety in more open field. This is a matchup every coach hopes his talented backs can win.
Problems for quarters coverages (in many of their variations) usually include play-action, double moves, and deep comebacks. In other words, routes that will take significant time to develop, be combined with a play fake, and a patient and sound quarterback. Not to mention this needs pass pro and receivers who run good routes and can create solid separation quickly. I’ve discussed using these options before.
The Answer For 2 Read Quarters Coverage Variations
The problems I just listed for 2 read quarters coverage variations exist, but they’re not ideal. As many of my readers are high school coaches, many of them probably don’t have all the ingredients to be successful executing those types of plays enough times to force the defense out of the 2 read quarters coverage variation.
However, Gunter Brewer provided some examples on his wide receiver screen game combined with some under center runs. He said they didn’t do it much from under center, but they did indeed do it. They mainly did it from the gun. Well, for us 2×1 21 personnel coaches, there is a lesson. Have dual play calls built in to your system.
However, the main dual call offensive coaches go to is the bubble screen. It stretches the defense horizontally. However, in this scenario, the defense is in a great position to play the bubble (and the fake off of it too with the free safety going over the top of number one when #2 goes flat). So what’s the solution?
Buried in my notes, Gunter Brewer stated he liked the jailbreak screen better than the bubble. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and he didn’t explain why. However, I know why I like that thought now!
A team could run a play, like power-o, to the right. The slot set could be on the left. If the QB sees two read, he can easily make the adjustment to take a one step drop and fire the pass the #1 receiver. Now, why does this (hypothetically) work instead of bubble? The #2 receiver is immediately threatening the flat and on the way to the corner. This makes the safety drop to respect the vertical by #1, which we show by having the #1 receiver move upfield before retreating back to take the quick pass from the quarterback. The corner, with the immediate flat threat, jumps the flat, only to be blocked by the #2 receiver.
Depending on what you do with your backside tackle, you might even be able to get a body on the free safety downfield. If not, you still have a safety initially retreating. He would need to reset his feet and fully change his momentum before making a break on the ball. This should give your receiver the opportunity to get 5-10 yards before he encounters either the free safety or the Rover.
If the free safety doesn’t respect the vertical threat of the #1 receiver and comes down fast, the #2 receiver could convert his route easily into a wheel on another play call. While the corner will probably still be there if well coached and this is likely a low percentage throw, the vertical threat attempt will drive defensive coordinators who are obsessed with not giving up big plays (which is the majority of the good ones) to just give us the underneath stuff.
Offensive Line Technique For Power with a Jailbreak Screen
Now, the ball should be gone quickly. Either a one step drop, or a quick flash fake and throw. Regardless, the line shouldn’t run into any issues with downfield blocking.
The backside tackle could step to protect B gap, and when no B gap threat arrives (or if he just punches the 3 technique momentarily if there is one for the center), then he could climb and try to get the Free Safety.
Now, both of those blocking concepts are hypothetical. I’ve never run them, though I imagine they could work. Art Kehoe’s idea I found out about when listening to Ben Davis HS in Indiana’s offensive line coach speak at a Glazier Clinic in Indianapolis in late January, so I don’t know the logistics of it (but I am on the lookout for them, trust me!).
In the worst case scenario, the QB could make a call, presnap, letting the entire line know he is intending to throw the quick screen. The backfield, and potentially the backside guard, could carry out the power fake while the line releases downfield.
Conclusions on Handling the 2 Read Quarters Coverage Variation
It is worth noting, I haven’t tried this. It’s in my notebook now. It’s a thought. There would be several issues to work out. Timing, QB steps, and the offensive line concerns. However, this may be a potential answer for 21 personnel teams who don’t have the QB with the big arm or the receivers or offensive line built for downfield passing attacks.