The most important part of any pattern reading defensive scheme...is the reads! I've heard and seen a myriad of ways to read/react in Quarters/2 Read etc. However, I like to keep it as simple as possible when teaching to the players. I think it becomes very easy to overburden the young high school mind, that quite frankly I've yet to figure out some of the things they are thinking about! Keeping it simple has been a golden rule of football for years, but as with anything there's always a way to over complicate things. I'm going to use this post to describe the reads, and the reactions I've taught my defensive backs (DB's) for years now. I also know there are more than one way to skin a cat, so I'll also try and present some other ways of doing things. Shall we?
Blue Coverage- The Cornerback's Reads and Responsibilities
The corner in 2 Read, or as most now call it, Blue coverage is always the widest defender on the football. His reads will always keep him from becoming out leveraged. Let's take a look at these reads and reactions and see how they work. For those that downloaded my PowerPoint's I'll follow them to a "T" so you can see where the reads and reactions come from. If you need to go here to download a copy of my Blue coverage for corners.
In Blue coverage, the #2 receiver dictates EVERYTHING! This is very important, because both the safety and corner will get their respective reads from the #2 receiver. The position of the #2 receiver does not matter, he can be in the backfield, a wing or slot, or a tight end (TE). Also, for clarity's sake, I number the receiver's on either side from outside in, with the #1 receiver being the widest of all the receiver's then numbering increasing to the inside until you reach the center of the formation. Anyhow, the #2 receiver will be our key for EVERY read and reaction we make in Blue coverage.
I will first give you the reads EXACTLY how I teach the corner, then I will go into the "finer" details of the coaching of the techniques involved with each read.
- 2 is outside- Man 2.
- 2 is inside/under/vertical or stays- Man 1.
#2 releases outside- When the corner sees 2 to the outside, he's no longer concerned with 1, as he knows I'll have help from the safety. Although, one thing I preach to corners from day 1, is expect to play #1 man to man, with no help. This puts their mindset that they are on an island similar to man coverage. I don't want corners thinking all the time "the safety should pick that up" as it lends itself to the releasing of receiver's and big plays, opposing band fight songs and so forth. So, when the corner sees 2's release is to the outside, he will now be looking for the throw to 2. However, he does not leave 1, and will still react to the movements by the #1 receiver. The reactions are as follows:
- 1 is inside- Squeeze 1, break on the throw (to 1 or 2). Never let 2 out leverage you (ie. don't let 2 cross your face). I teach the corners to squeeze 1's route, until 2 will no longer allow you to do so. I also have the corners give an "in" call to let the safety know just what 1 is doing.
- The reason you cannot allow 2 to out leverage you is because the corner in Blue coverage is the swing deep of 2 player, meaning he has any out or out and up (such as a wheel) route by #2. The corner cannot effectively cover the wheel if he becomes out leveraged.
- 1 is vertical- If #1 wants to stay vertical, Blue coverage simply becomes squat 1/2's coverage for the corner. He HAS to carry and squeeze 1 to the safety. This allows the safety to come off his read of 2 and get to 1. By squeezing 1 to the inside it also reduces the amount of ground the safety has to cover to get to #1. The corner will squeeze and "trail" this route, reading the #2 receiver and the QB. I teach the corner to read the non-throwing shoulder of the QB and as soon as that shoulder crosses his face he's to settle his feet and be ready to break on the throw to 2. This is a key coaching point in Blue coverage as if the corner jumps the out by 2, he's leaving the safety on an island with a huge void to cover with a receiver streaking down the sideline.
That's basically it for it #2 is out, now let's move to the second part of the read, what to do when #2 is inside/under/vertical or stays in to block.
#2 Releases inside/under/vertical/or stays- The corner can now lock on to #1 man to man. This read is very simple and frees the corner of any other responsibility other than man to man coverage on #1. There are some specifics though that you must teach your corners when they get this read.
- #1 and 2 run shallow crossing routes- The corner should gain depth and play off of the crossing route of #1 and think "post-corner". I teach this because we want the corner to have leverage on the post corner route. Teach your corners to beat the WR to the ball on this particular route.
- #2 inside, 1 runs a post- The corner locks on to 1 here, and must "high shoulder" the post route. The corner can NEVER come under an post route. He does not know if he has safety help, and must work to maintain leverage on the upfield shoulder of the WR. The same can be said of the dig route.
- #2 is vertical, #1 is short- The corner should think smash immediately. In years past I've even had them yell it out "smash-smash-smash". The corner should be outside and over the top of 1, and outside and underneath of the route by 2. Over the years, I've had a lot of corners come up with interceptions by undercutting the corner route by #2. I tell the corners be prepared to rally to the throw to 1, but play off enough to help with the corner route. Again, the corner is not jumping routes, he's relating to their distribution, and putting himself in position to either jump the throw, or force a bad throw.
- #2 and 1 are vertical- Man 1. Very simple. I teach working to inside leverage and "wedging the fade". You will be surprised to know it's actually a natural reaction for the corner to move to inside leverage on the fade route. This is important as he has no inside help from the safety on this particular route combination.
So, that does it for the corners. In a nutshell, teach the corners to read the routes and use their distribution to position themselves according to be able to react to the throw. This does one of two things, it puts the corner in a position to break on throws instead of chasing routes, and it forces the QB to fit the football into tighter windows.
Now that the corner's have been established, let's move on to the safeties.
Blue Coverage-The Safety's Reads and Responsibilities
The safety is the toughest position to play in Blue coverage. This athlete must be able to cover ground, make checks, read opposing offenses, cover man-to-man, and tackle in open spaces. This DB must not be afraid to "bloody his gums" against the run, and must have the finesse to run with WR's in space. I highly urge defensive coaches to put some of their best overall athletes at these positions. At the very least, put some of your best open-field tacklers here.
Here is exactly how I teach my safeties their reads.
- 2 is vertical- Man 2.
- 2 is outside/inside/under or stays and blocks- Get to #1.
2 Releases outside
- 2 releases outside, 1 runs a slant- The safety's eyes should immediately go to 1, once he sees 1 breaking off his route and coming inside, the safety settles and then drives to the upfield shoulder of the WR. Two things can happen here, either a huge collision, or an interception, both of which should have defensive coordinators (DC's) licking their chops!
- 2 releases outside, 1 run a curl- Get to 1! Simple as that. The safety should work to stay inside and over the top of 1 and break on the throw to 1.
- 2 releases outside, 1 is vertical- If #1 shows no intention of breaking off his route, the safety must turn and run to the inside shoulder of #1. He must always think "I have no help" on this particular route combination. This is the toughest route combination the safety will have to defense in Blue coverage.
- As a side note, the way I've taught my safeties is that they are flat-footed reads, or buzzing their feet on the snap (I prefer to buzz). Once they see what #2 is not a threat, the will actually turn and open to #1, as the first thought I put in their minds is "1 is vertical". This way they are always prepared for the worst case scenario.
- Also, if #1 breaks his route to the outside, the safety should drive for the deepest shoulder and squeeze the WR to the sideline.
- 2 is inside and 1 runs a post- The safety should undercut the post. I want to see the safety in the throwing lane on the deep post route. The safety should man turn to this route, and be on the inside shoulder of the WR. The same may be said of the dig route.
- 2 is vertical and out- If the safety declares that 2 is vertical, yet 2 breaks outside, the safety must drive through the upfield shoulder of #2. I also like to have the safety give an "out" call to the corner in case the offense is attempting to run a variation of a high-low route I call scissors.
- In the case of scissors, we would "banjo" the routes, meaning he corner takes the outside route, and the safety takes the inside route. This technique prevents pick and rub routes that offenses utilize when they see some form of man coverage.
- 2 runs a post- This is a tough, one, but the safety should work to inside leverage on #2. At the very least we want to see a high throw forced by the safety.
2 Stays in to block- For the purpose of this post, I mean pass block. Later I will discuss run reads, but for simplicity's sake, I'm talking about passing situations and reads. The reads here are identical to that of if 2 is out, or in. The safety again, should get his eyes to #1's hips and decipher the route, all the while having the mindset that #1 is going vertical.
Before all the above is established, you obviously have a playbook. I call the reads listed above "Blue Reads". So, in my playbook, the corners rules in 2 read are:
- Blue reads of 2, swing deep of 2.
- This means the corner will read #2 according to the rules listed above, and he has the out and up of #2.
- Blue reads of 2, all of 2 vertical.
So, there you have it! That's basically it. To be honest, it takes three times as long to type the reads as it does to teach them. Remember, teach whole-part-whole, and you'll be fine. Start with the simple reads described above, and then break down the individual reactions to the various routes and route combinations that you will see. Then put all these back together to formulate the answer to the simple reads!
I'm trying to hurry as I know several people are asking me about the coverage and rules in preparation for spring football. Bear with me, I'm going as fast as I can!