9

June

Xs and Os: The Three-Deep Zone Defense (Cover 3)

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

Continuing with our series of defensive coverage shells, this week we’ll take a closer look at the three-deep zone defense, which is more commonly known as the cover 3.

Previously, we looked at the cover 1 and cover 2 defenses.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers predominantly prefers the single-high safety look, but he has deployed the cover 2 shell frequently over the years.

However, the Packers don’t use the cover 3 all that often, but it’s a defense that every NFL team must have in their arsenal because what it brings to the table.

Of course, this article comes with my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only.

Cover 3 Defense Defined

When defending the field, the defense usually divides the area vertically into “halves.” The underneath half typically extends 7 yards from the line of scrimmage and the deep half usually extends 15-20 from the line of scrimmage.

In the three-deep zone defense (cover 3), the free safety and both cornerbacks play zone defense and each guard a third of the deep half. They must cover any receiver entering their respective third of the field and drive towards to the ball once it is in the air. Additionally, they must carry the receivers vertically all the way to the goal line.

The GIF below highlights the assignments.

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Strengths of Cover 3

There is no perfect defense in football. If the defense sells out to stop the run, they are extremely vulnerable to the pass. Likewise, setting up a strong back end to guard the pass makes them susceptible to the pass.

The cover 3 is a compromise defense of sorts. Because the deep third is covered by the free safety and both cornerbacks, the strong safety is free to align in the box.

This means the defense can play eight in the box to stop the run. The front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are in the box in addition to the strong safety.

In a nutshell, the cover 3 allows the defense the flexibility. It can be considered a “jack of all trades” defense. It is a very popular run defense, with pass flex, in the NFL because it allows the defense to pack eight in the box and still drop seven into zone pass coverage.

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4

October

Packers Playbook (Hobbjective Analysis): Week 4 vs. New Orleans Saints

If you don’t listen to “Tuesday’s with Aaron” (hosted by Green and Gold’s Jason Wilde), I highly recommend that you do so (it’s free on itunes to boot).  One thing that always surprises me is how much Aaron Rodgers remembers about each specific play; not only does he remember the blocking assignments and routes, but he also remembers the context, the past tendencies of the defense and historically how’s it’s worked for the Packers in the past.  This week, he detailed the first touchdown play in the game versus the Saints and how James Jones stole a touchdown from Jermicheal Finley.  As it’s often hard to follow Rodgers when he’s describing a play on the radio, I have decided to diagram this play with what Rodgers stated (so presumably this is about as accurate of a play analysis as I can possibly do)

 

The Situation: The score is tied 0-0 in the 1st quarter with 9 minutes left to go.  The Packers are in the red zone with 2nd and 10 after LB Scott Shanle ripping the ball out of TE Jermicheal Finley’s hands on first down wiped out a potential touchdown. So far, both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have had their way with the opposing defenses and it’s pretty obvious that the Packers offense is going to take another shot at the endzone.

Pre-snap: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) aligned out wide to the left and TE Jermicheal Finley (88) inline to LT Marshall Newhouse (I’ve left the numbers off the picture for offensive linemen simply because there isn’t enough space with them all packed together; the line consists of the regular starters of LT Marshall Newhouse, LG TJ Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton and RT Byran Bulaga).  WR Greg Jennings (85) is in the slot to the right while WR Jordy Nelson (87) aligns out wide to the right.  QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is set out of the shotgun with RB Cedric Benson (32) to the right of him.

The Saints defense responds with their base 4-3 personnel: 4 defensive linemen (2 DT-2DL), 3 linebackers, 2 cornerback and 2 safeties.  Pre-snap it appears to be a pretty vanilla defense, both corners are about 3 yards in front of the receivers out wide and one safety has aligned on top of WR Jennings (who strangely as the slot receiver is given about 5 yards of open space) No defender motions or moves once set (honestly, I have nothing to write about after the insanity of a Dom Capers defensive formation).  Overall, a very standard personnel and formation.