Home Football Strategies Man Coverage Basics

Man Coverage Basics


For this X’s O’s Football Strategy  breakdown, we take a look at man coverage basics, Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover 2. We also throw in Madden Tips for those of you who like to play Madden football when calling the different types of man coverage in found in the game.

Man Coverage: Cover 0(Blitz)

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This is definitely a high risk/reward play call, because the cb’s have no safety help over the top. With that being said, if you do not have defensive backs with good man coverage ability, including your safeties, this should be called very infrequently.

This, ideally, should be done from an off man position, and the reason for this is clear to see. If your blitz doesn’t get home, the last thing you want is to give up an easy 6. Besides the off man coverage, you should shade your coverage to the inside, and i’ll explain why. You do not want to get beat on any route with an inside vertical stem, it’s an easy read for your opponent, and it can quickly become disastrous for you.

If your cb’s posses high press ratings, coupled with good speed, then you could run this from a press man position. However, before you can even consider a particular play call, you need to settle on what kind of defensive scheme you want to run, and that will be dictated by the strengths and weaknesses of your personnel. Knowing what your personnel does well, or maybe not so well, will also help you select the appropriate defensive playbook.

I want to bring up one very important, and often over looked fact. There is one thing that is as important as knowing your own personnel, knowing your opponents personnel. You must also be aware of how your opponent is using their personnel I.E. are they putting their stud wr in the slot, etc.

Another important part of play calling, your opponents tendencies. You must pick up on what plays(run and pass), route combinations, formations and in what situations they like to run certain plays. It’s a chess match, and if tendencies are telling you to take away a particular play in a given situation, then that’s what you must do. If you are wrong, so be it, you can only play the odds, the tendencies you’ve picked up on throughout the game.

Man Coverage: Cover 1 (Man Free)

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Since your help is in the middle of the field, your coverage should be shaded to the outside, except for receivers aligned in a plus split. When a WR is aligned between the numbers and the sideline, he should be shaded to the inside, this will allow the CB to use the boundary as an extra defender.

One thing to remember, drag routes(think mesh concept) are designed to defeat man coverage, so you must be prepared to jump them.

If you call cover 1 robber, user the robber safety, and break on any shallow in-breaking routes. The same thing applies to cover 1 Hole, with a linebacker(the rat) playing in the low hole. User the rat linebacker, and give help on any shallow in-breaking routes.

I do want to make one thing clear, and this goes for any coverage, you must have the right personnel for the play call. If you do not have defensive backs with high man coverage ratings, along with good play recognition and speed, this should be called sparingly. Also, if you call Cover 1 Press, your DB’s better posses, not only a high man coverage rating and excellent speed, but a high press rating, too.

Man Coverage: 2 Man Under (Cover 2 Man)

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With your help, the two deep half safeties, being over top and to the outside, your coverage should be shaded to the inside. Unlike Cover 1, the shading remains the same, regardless of the wide receiver splits.

The safeties should be able to drive on any deep dig, post, corner, or deep out, and get over the top of any fade. With that being said, user the safety to the side of the passing strength, or to the field side, and be prepared to jump any of the these routes. A quick reminder, make sure you get enough width and depth to stay over the top of any fade or streak route.

The weakness of this man coverage is obvious, the void in the deep middle of the field. Unlike it’s Tampa 2 counterpart, there is no middle run through to cushion the deep middle third. As with any coverage, it comes with it’s weaknesses, but the strengths of this defense outweigh any structural void. Just as in Cover 1, you will need defensive backs with good man coverage ratings, play recognition and speed, but there is a bigger(much bigger) need for a high press rating.


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