clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Armchair Coordinator: Cover 3 revisited

As we all know, Seattle's defense runs a lot of Cover 3.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you're not sure what that is, it means that the free safety and outside cornerbacks each take responsibility for defending a deep 1/3 of the field. Cover 3 is usually a zone principle, but the way Seattle plays it, Cover 3 can be sort of a hybrid. Regardless if Seattle is playing zone or man from their cover 3 look, they can always press the receiver at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing.  It's a simple concept that gives the Seattle defense the best of both worlds.


In it's basic form the outside defenders (Will and the SS) will be responsible for the curl/flat route combinations

Against the Broncos in the Super Bowl, SS Kam Chancellor was responsible for lurking near the box to take away and react to our crossing routes. Here's an example:


Overall, I think the Broncos approach over the middle was flawed. They needed to be working the outside throws more. Against Cover 3, they should have implemented more route combinations that put strain on the outside corners. Let Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders stretch the coverage vertically before breaking to the comeback or outside route. Once that starts to have some success and the corners start to jump those routes, throw in a double move concept and get some burnage down the field.

Earl Thomas is a world-class FS and from what I can tell he does not get beat by playaction all that often. It's the design of the defense. If the Seahawks can keep 8-men in or near the box Kam Chancellor becomes that extra enforcer. This team does not miss tackles.

With the return of Wes Welker, the Broncos should be able to utilize the speed both he and Emmanuel Sanders possess. That means working the slants and pivot routes short.

Julius Thomas

After the week Antonio Gates had against KJ Wright, the Broncos should be looking to do whatever they can to get Julius matchup up one on one. The China and Smash concepts should be a staple on Sunday.  Let's take a look at those.



The outside receiver should clear the flat by taking the outside corner with him. If the protection is good, you have an opportunity for a post/corner double move outlined here with the outside receiver. Getting the ball to Julius in the flat is the key here. From the other side, the Broncos could choose to run a crosser with Welker which should clear out by the time he reaches the strongside of the formation.



The concept is the same you just flip the roles.  Here the tight end runs the corner route while the outside receiver holds the coverage underneath with a curl/comeback. The comeback is meant to provide a level of space deep to the sideline that the corner route takes advantage of. There's no way a linebacker can successfully cover Julius over that much ground. The key is the strong safety. The tight end must cut across his face. If the SS gets leverage underneath, the quarterback will have to drop the ball over the top which could be a risky proposition against Earl Thomas reading the play. This corner concept was a scoring play against the Chargers, and it was the LB who had man to man coverage.

7 Keys to beating Seahawk Coverage

Stretch the linebackers vertically one way or the other. This did not happen in the Super Bowl as Seattle was primed to sit on the crossing routes underneath. The Broncos could run a double crossing combo with a dig behind. The idea being the linebackers stepping up and creating more space for the dig who should be in front of the free safety. In general, I would like to see the Broncos try and attack the area behind the linebackers and in front of Earl Thomas more.  Success begets success. Hit this a couple of times only to see Thomas cheat up, then turn the route vertically for a big play

At some point you have to make the coverage choose. Running four verticals against Cover 3 should put someone in a position where they have to choose. This is easier said then done and I think spacing is the key here. Earl Thomas is used to reading two routes and splitting the difference, he's that good. Make him cover more ground from a 2x2 alignment.

Be patient. The longest play of the game the Chargers managed last week was 22 yards. Even in defeat the Seahawks didn't allow a huge play downfield. Be happy to take 3-5 yard gains at a time. The goal here is consistency.

Don't let Sherman off the hook by ignoring him. Stick Emmanuel Sanders out there and let Sanders win with speed. Earl Thomas usually cheats to the side of the field opposite Sherman. I would run comeback after comeback until Sherman gets salty and jumps a route, then I would blow past him with a double move. Against Sanders, I believe Sherman will want to press and negate the quickness from the snap, so Sanders has to win a couple of times. Be smart about it as well. If Sherman is going to show you off coverage, run slants and screens against him. Remember it's about patience and working your way down the field.

If the Broncos are consistent about stretching the field vertically, they will have no issue gaining chunks of yardage on checkdowns. Make those linebackers drop deeper than normal and hit Montee Ball with a chance for some YAC.

Use a variety of groupings (2x2, 3x1, 3x2, 4x1) and keep them guessing. A simple defense that has to make a lot of adjustments will get caught out of position. Not only that but if you are spreading a team out consistently, it limits the sort of blitzes and pressure packages they can use.

If the Broncos are going to have anything deep at their disposal (double moves included) the protection has to be top notch. Period, bottom line. To help with that, I would chip the ends with a TE and RB every single passing down. Hit them until the clock winds down to 0.