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I’ve been out of coaching for awhile (I’m still a big fan) but I have sure noticed that defensive back play is different than when I coached. We were basically a cover 3 team, meaning our secondary played in the standard three-deep zone shell (rush four, drop seven). Both cornerbacks dropped to the outside third with the free safety playing the deep middle of the field (or middle third). We called it Irish and we could stay in cover 3 the entire game, and many times did. In our 4-4 defense it was the front eight’s job to stop the run and we asked our three secondary players to play pass first, denying the long pass, and support the front eight on the run. I think the basics of our coverage were pretty simple. Take a look.

Cover 3 – Irish

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Irish versus a drop back pass. When the QB dropped straight back or inside the  tackles, the safety and all others would yell, “Pass, Pass“. This signaled everyone to cover their zones. Linebackers were taught to play the run first, then drop to their zone coverage. Secondary players were taught to defend the pass first, then support the front eight. Main rule: Don’t get beat deep!

Irish vs Rollout

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Our coverage versus a rollout pass was pretty simple also. Basically we rotated coverage against an attack to the flank. Once the QB got outside the tackles the safety would be the first to yell, “Roll, Roll“. This signaled everyone to rotate play side. The play side corner did not need to drop deep because the safety would cover the outside 1/3. The back side corner had deep middle in place of the safety. Our inside linebacker on the playside was on an automatic blitz.

Irish vs Bootleg

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Basic rotation vs Boot. Our safety took the receiver running the drag route (usually the tight end). It was very similar to roll out coverage except for the safety’s responsibility (drag route) and the play side corner now had deep 1/3 on his side.

Did we play other coverages?

Yeah, in certain situations we changed our coverage to more of a combination man/zone look. Our favorite was what we called 2 deep/man under. We would simply put two safeties on each hash and tell them they had deep halves. Our five linebacker type players underneath were in man coverage. We called it Wildcat. We used this when expecting a lot of passing situations. If our opponents came out with twins split out on one side and a lone receiver split on the other side, we went to our safety and corner covering the twins in quarter coverage and our other corner locked up in man coverage. We called it Quarter Irish.

Today’s Secondary Coverage

Well, I don’t think we could get away with being so simple these days. The reason? The Spread Offense. The Spread has forced defenses to become much more multiple than when I coached.  Defenses need more players on the field who are good in coverage. The two corners have to be good, especially if the opponent has more than one good outside receiver or can move their best receiver around to create match-up advantages, and whoever is covering the slot needs to be strong as well. Finding so many good coverage players is a real challenge. The result of more innovative offenses has been the rise of more innovative defenses which leads us to…

Palms Coverage

Tre Stewart

Tre Stewart

I only heard about Palms coverage in the last year. It is a great example of defensive coaches coming up with new coverages for today’s offenses. What is it? The Palms Coverage (cover 2 read) premise is based off the read of the number-two receiver.  If number two is vertical, the corner plays number one. If number two runs a flat route, the corner comes off on number two and the free safety plays number one. I’m not an expert in this area but I can tell you who is. Defensive Back Coach Tre Stewart at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Il. is doing a great job coaching palms coverage and has videos available on Coach Stewart does an incredible job with these videos, diving deep into the coaching points of Palms and their DB play. He’s an up and coming young coach and you will be impressed with his teaching techniques and drills (some of the best I’ve seen) for DB’s.


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Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY