Cover 1. What it is, how to recognize it and why it’s used.

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Cover 1 is also called, safety high. The Free Safefy is left at the top alone and the Strong Safety moves up like a linebacker. This is used for projected run plays or against Alex Smith type dink and dunk quarterbacks. Yes, this is sarcasm. Our SS are TJ Ward and Will Parks.

Below is Zone for the FS and Man for the Cornerbacks, in a 3-4 formation. QB is under center with a fullback and running back.  “Man Free” and  “Man Under”  are other names that have been assigned to Cover 1 by various coaches.  In similar fashion to the various names of offensive routes, different coaches can call defensive schemes various things as well. The Free Safety sits back, watched the QB and floats to the play. This is called playing “centerfield” in baseball, because they track any hit ball whether to them, or to either side and they back up those that are in front of him.


*graphic is generic only to show where players could line up on certain basic plays.*

With cover 1, teams generally play man with the other DBs on the field, but there are instances where they throw some zone in it. As it was mentioned, the SS is lower in the box to offer run support but he can still shadow a RB or TE depending on what the DC dials up. Any of the linebackers could have a specialized blitz call as well.

This is also sometimes known as ‘crowding the box’ if the SS creeps up even closer. Not only does it make a run play tougher, but it also takes away the short pass, except for the brave (or foolhardy depending on the arm throwing it). This is a good way to force a QB to throw deeep.

Why would a defense want a QB to toss it beyond 15 yards? Because they don’t think the quarterback has the arm to make those throws or maybe he’s uncomfortable doing them. NE* played against Denver like that this season and Denver did it to the Texans and Jaguars.

This is giving a quarterback a noose to hang himself with. It also can make a team desperate. They can’t run and the short pass is gone. It’s also a powerful tool to use if you want to set up a QB, too.

Say you’ve been taking the short pass away all game, but now you want him to throw short, especially in the red zone because you know he’ll target that open guy. So, you play one receiver loose, and then jump in front and you’ve got a pick or at least a knock down. The worst case is he gets five yards if it’s timed wrongly. This doesn’t work against good quarterbacks, because he’ll read what’s going on, but it works great against ‘less than’, ones.

In addition, the SS can act like he’s playing Cover 1, but drop back into Cover 2. Or he can do the opposite, show Cover 2 and at the last possible moment, move up to Cover 1.

The bottom line is, when you have a secondary (and linebackers) as good as ours, it gives the Defensive Coordinator a lot choices. They can play different coverages without losing a beat. The beauty is when you’re so versatile, because you have fantastic talent, there’s little an offense can do against a secondary like Denver’s.

  • Cover 4 coming soon
  • Nickle coming soon
  • Dime coming soon
  • Tampa 2 coming soon
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