In this article, I will discuss how I break down our coverages by concepts. In the New England Small College Athletic Conference, we have a roster limit, so we have to be very meticulous about personnel. At Bowdoin College, our defensive staff’s job is to get the best 11 players on the field. Teaching coverages by concepts allows us to plug in the best available player. I will use our base coverage of Cover 3; it can be 3 deep 4 under or 3 deep 3 under (Diagram 1).
We will show both a 2 high safety look and a 1 high safety look. I break it down into four concepts for the secondary. They need to know the following concepts: True Third Player, Closed Third Player, SCIF Player, and Post Player. We need to be able to cross train the secondary players to play in any of these four concepts. If our #2 corner is athletically better than our #2 safety, then he will play before the other guy.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Best Way To Defend The Zone Read
There are different techniques involved with the four different concepts which must be taught and drilled. But as we teach each concept, corners and safeties, even though they are different types of players, will do the same technique drills for the different concepts.
TRUE THIRD PLAYER
Description: When you have two detached wide receivers from the formation. It can be to both the field and boundary. Deep as Deepest True Zone/Quarterback Technique. Maintain Depth as long as quarterback or ball carrier is behind line of scrimmage. Don’t play any 3-step and quick game moves. Needs to be on top of all routes.
Alignment: #1 receiver, 1 x 8 based on divider, D6 or C6 vs. Nub tight end.
Key: Ball action to quarterback indicators. Hard Key tight end to Nub side.
Run: Pass first player. Crack or Kick Replace. Fill where needed, pursue outside to inside.
Footwork: Skate to crossover run (Zone Bail)
- Used with SCIF or Flood Side.
- Communicate split of #1. “Buzz” tells flat defender to attack the out. “In” tells flat defender to hold curl.
RELATED ARTICLE: Defending The Spread At All Three Levels
Closed Third Player
Description: When you have a single wide receiver to your side. It can be to the field or boundary. Pattern Read Deep technique. Deep as deep as receiver in your zone. Can be aggressive to 3-step routes, want to be in a position for a catch and tackle on the wide receiver.
Alignment: #1 receiver, 1 x 6 based on divider, D6 or C6 vs. Nub tight end.
Key: Ball action, Inside threat to #1. Hard Key single receiver or tight end to Nub side.
Run: Pass first. Crack or Kick Replace. Contain second, pursue outside to inside.
Footwork: Skate or Man Bail
- Used with SCIF technique.
- Inside Threat Vertical: Zone turn and play quarterback indicators. With seam/fade attack, pin your shoulders and lean to sideline. Low launch Seam, high launch fade. If #1 shallow or short, squeeze #2 and play quarterback throw.
- Inside Threat Eliminated: Play #1 to your ability, release shallow under, look for work deep to short.
- Inside Threat Maybe (ie. flat with possible wheel): Zone Back and treat as vertical. If SCIF defender jumps, #2 Flat, play #1 to your ability. Pre-snap communication is key versus this combination route.
Description: Underneath Zone technique responsible for second widest underneath route, landmark is #2 or Seam. Must carry vertical #2 or original #1 through the seam. Run with Wheel route of #2.
Alignment: Gap/Formation rules or Wide Apex vs. 3×1.
Key: Base Rules. Always be aware of split of #2 to determine drop.
Run: Force Player: Keep ball on the inside shoulder.
- General depth is 10 to 12 yards deep. Depth can be 5 to 10 vs. 3-step or bunch, and 12 to 15 in long yardage.
- vs. No Seam: Defend the curl or final #2, melt and break on quarterback.
- vs. a Stacked Concept in Seam: Defend deeper part of zone.
Description: Deep as Deepest Middle Zone/Quarterback Indicator technique. Continue gaining depth as long as quarterback is in pocket.
Alignment: Middle of formation 12 to 14 yards deep.
Key: Uncovered lineman to ball action.
Run: Pass first. Alley. Pursue inside to outside.
Footwork: Walk, Pedal, Run. Weave with disguise.
Double Width Landmark: Post or near upright (Hash).
Single Width Landmark: Alignment (Apex)
- vs. Sprint: Move zone landmark with quarterback.
- vs. Moving Boot: Locate deep crossing and play over the top. It is common for an offense to fake boot and throw back post or for crossing to convert route behind an aggressive middle safety.
- In Man Free coverage, run support can be more aggressive.
This is a brief overview of what we teach within our secondary. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Rob Eggerling is currently the co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Bowdoin College. He joined the Polar Bears in the summer of 2016 after eight years at Saint Anselm, where he was most recently the associate head coach and defensive coordinator. His prior coaching experience includes a stint at Hartwick, where he was the team’s defensive coordinator in 2007, as well as UNH and St. Lawrence. Eggerling was a four-year letterwinner in football at Southern Connecticut State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2001. Eggerling graduated with his master’s degree from Saint Lawrence University in 2003.
If you are interested in more in-depth articles and videos, please become an AFCA member. You can find out more information about membership and specific member benefits on the AFCA Membership Overview page. If you are ready to join, please fill out the AFCA Membership Request Form.