The 'garbage defense' that can be played against any offensive front, cover 3 provides the best of both worlds; a 3 deep MOFC shell to discourage deep passing and an 8 man front against the run.
Cover 3 is great against any odd receiver sets (2x1, 3x1, 3x2) and it's balanced alignment provides a strong interior run-defense. It affords the defense the benefits of Cover 1 (interior run strength), without the liabilities of individual matchups in man-coverage.
It is often victimized by attacking the curl-to-flat player, who typically will have to cover a width of nearly 17 yards by 15 yards deep. This is where the two-man receiver games are played to put this player in conflict (arrow/shoot/stick/wheel/etc).
Below are basic rules for secondary positions in Cover 3;
Cover 3 will be the foundation of our passing game coverage. It will be necessary for everyone to have a thorough understanding of this coverage scheme vs. any formation an offense can throw at us. Below are some of the basic rules for playing cover 3. ( one thing should be noted here, when we have people coming in and out of one we call the defender by the name rather than merely calling in or out) this helps TE defender whose zone is being infiltrated by giving him specific feedback.
Vs. 2 backs
Align with INSIDE leverage 8 – 10 yards off the ball. You have the flexibility to show different types of looks at different times. You may start showing press, outside leverage or some other type of look. (preferably coordinated with the FS). On the snap, your primary responsibility is to zone your 1/3 of the field. Read the receiver through the step zone. Once the receiver clears this area, you must identify and see #2 and know where he is in relationship to your zone. You are secondary run support. On a pass underneath it is your job to outside-in everything. Keep the cup. The linebackers will work inside out to the boundary. You cannot allow the ball carrier to go up the sideline
Your run key in a two back set would be the TE. Take your two backward read steps and identify run or pass. Once you see pass your base responsibility is to one the middle 1/3 of the field. You cannot cheat to one side or the other. It is important for you to realize when you are on the field, (right/ left hash or middle) and drop accordingly. See #2 both strong and weak, if vertical continue to get depth. If they break off their routes expand your vision to #1’s and look for one of them entering your zone. Vs run you are the alley player to both sides/ your job is to run the alley and cut the ball off before it gets beyond the second level. Stay inside- out on the ball carrier.
Wolf/ Dog Backer
Your job is to work from curl to flat. A basic landmark would be the numbers at a depth of 10 – 12 yards. Remember on the snap you are a run player first. Identify run or pass. Once you see pass open up at a 45 degree angle and begin your drop buzzing through the curl and keeping leverage on the flat. You want depth and width on your drop. You hold the curl by #1 through the first window, and pass him off to the inside backer because you must keep leverage on the flat. Once you see the quarterback turn his shoulders towards the flat, you are shot out of a cannon and get to the flat inside out keeping the cup. On run to your side, you are the guy that is the force player to cut off the sideline. No runs or blocks can reach your outside shoulder. Be physical and keep your outside shoulder free. You cannot get bounced for width. On run away, you are the cutback player. You shuffle down to the open gap and hold your position. You must remain in the cutback area until you see the ball has cleared the line of scrimmage at which point you get into an angle of pursuit and chase down the ball. The ball can never be cutback beyond your back shoulder when the ball is away from you.
Zip / Sam
Your job is to work the hook zones. You are run players first. Once you have read pass you open up and drop to your zones. A general landmark is 12 yards deep at the hash marks. The first person that can get to your zone is the #2 receiver to your side. Know where he is. We will expand and contract with our under coverage depending on routes of the receivers. Listen for calls indicting #1 working to the second window by Dog or the Wolf. Do not jump the short routes by the backs or #2. We will react to those routes. We want the ball to go underneath. Do not give up a 12-yard route to stop the 3 or 4-yard route by the backs or TE. Vs run you are fast flow players. Your ‘fit’ is off the hip of the DE, with the Free Safety playing the “alley” to your outside. With this in mind, we are able to string the perimeter plays outside compressing the running lane with the Wolf / Dog and the secondary run support corners playing outside-in. Hit the clear. We will discuss this greater with our position group.
Vs. 1 back
The basics of the coverage remain the same with some critical adjustments. We will use the example of 4 quicks for the purpose of this discussion.
The corners will move to inside leverage on #1. Depth is 8 – 10. We will not stem vs. this look. On the snap of the ball, the corner will zone turn and gain depth off of #1 while reading #2. On the first few steps he can be patient to read the receivers through the 3-step game. Once he has established it is not a short pass, he will continue his drop with greater urgency. It is important that he keep his depth on #1. Against 4 verticals he will play in the zone principle. There should never be an occasion when both of the verticals are on the same level. We will take care of this problem with our flat players. We must be prepared to run with #1 if the ball is thrown vertical to him, but be able to break back on a ball thrown to #2.
Same as in 2 back set though he must now key both #2 receivers. He is required to play 2 in the zone like the corners, and not get caught leaning one way or the other by the QB. The free safety should have maximum benefit because of the re-routes by the flat players. The free safety must also be aware of where #1 is on both sides to defend the possible post.
Wolf / Dog Backer
If the #2 receiver is split further than 7 yards from the end man on the line of scrimmage, you will split the difference by alignment between #2 and the EMOL. On pass, your drop will intersect with a vertical stem of #2. You are required to collision / reroute the #2 receiver on a vertical (upfield) release to prevent an unfavorable 4 vertical matchup with our 3 deep secondary.