Thursday, April 14, 2011

2 Read/Blue Coverage

Over the years on the Huey board, I've had tons and tons of questions about the coverages I ran.  A lot of folks thought I was a Quarters guy (well, I am sort of), however I actually based out of 2 read, or what TCU calls "Blue" coverage.  I want to take a moment and share with you my version of 2 read, and later, talk about some of the adjustments that can be made with this coverage. 

Why 2 Read?
As with any story, history needs to be revisited in order to fully explain the "where I got this" aspect of why I base out of 2 Read.  First off, I was a huge Miami 4-3/Jimmy Johnson fan, as I think what he did to defensive football in the 1980's was unbelievable.  He, and some other brilliant football minds, changed the game of football forever.  UM ran a lot of the old cover 2 back in those days (squat 1/2's/corner force).  You always heard announcers talk about their secondary and how physical their corners were.  So, when given the chance to be a defensive coordinator, what do you think I ran????  Yep!  I ran the Miami 4-3 and based out of cover 2.  Now I ran some cover 3, and some cover 8 (1/4, 1/4, 1/2) as well as  man, but we based solely out of cover 2.  I learned very quickly that, despite being a good coverage, cover 2 has some glaring weaknesses that an offense can easily exploit, especially against the likes of a young DC such as myself (at the time). 

Early Problems
Some of our early problems were, since I did not get to go recruit my corners, I found that not just every kid out there that can run is also going to be physical on the line of scrimmage (LOS).  We had to really work at getting good at the press and trail technique required of a cover 2 corner.  This took a lot of time and energy and did not allow us to run other coverages very proficiently.

Also, teams saw that we based out of cover 2, and began widening their wide receiver (WR) splits, thereby removing our force player from his run responsibility.  This really put our safeties and outside linebackers (OLB's) in a bind, as the outside alley was larger due to the split.  Our force player was now having to defeat a block, and travel a great distance to get to his duty.

The safeties I had, though athletic, had a real tough time defending 2 deep routes in their deep 1/2 zone.  I think a lot of this led back to the first problem listed above, however we had a lot of trouble getting our safeties to get over the top of the #1 receiver if #2 also went vertical. 

So what to do?

Solution #1- Quarters
After a brutal first year as DC where we gave up an atrocious 118.5 yards a game passing in a league not known for passing teams, I knew I had to modify what I was doing.  So I looked around and came across some traditional Quarters stuff.  I liked the idea of being able to have my safeties involved in run support, and my corners with very simple rules as to who and how to cover.  So, the following spring we installed Quarters and based out of that for the next 3 seasons, with large returns on our investment. 

So why get out of Quarters?
I know what most are saying, why did you quit using Quarters?  Well, even though we got better, teams knew what we were doing, and they still did things to us in the passing game that could hurt us.  Most teams knew they had the flats all night.  We had basically ditched out old cover 2, and ran some roll cover 3 (sky/cloud) and some cover 8 was it.  We didn't really have a good answer for defending the flats.  We also didn't rough receivers up any more on the LOS, as in Quarters our corners were 8 yards off and 1 yard inside leverage of the #1 receiver.  I still felt like we needed some kind of squat 1/2's coverage, but cover 2 seemed to take a lot of receptions to master in practice.  Also, despite being easier, Quarters needs its reps as well.  So what to do?

Solution #2- 2 Read
Enter the Huey Board (what an invaluable tool, if you haven't become a member, please go here, it's well worth it), and a coach (who's name will remain anonymous) from a small junior college that happened to see some posts about me asking some cover 2 questions.  I was basically ranting about wanting the simplicity of Quarters, but being more sound in the flats.  He private messaged me, and later sent me PowerPoint presentation of the coverage they used where he was the DC.  I was hooked!  I figured I could use the same Quarters run fits as I had always done, and on top of that, use the 2 Read coverage instead of Quarters.  Like most others would say at this time, "so the rest is history".  But hold on a minute (FREEZE), I still had some refining to do to be able to simply "base" out of this coverage like I had been doing out of Quarters. 

Refining 2 Read
While 2 Read, is an awesome coverage, it still has some weaknesses of it's own.  Right now I know most Quarters guys are already saying "if #2 is a tight end (TE) and #1 is split wide you can't run 2 read!".  To some this would be true, but if you know this going in, there are things you can do about it.  The first year we added 2 Read into our playbook we still based out of Quarters, but used 2 Read as a check to 2 detached receivers (twins).  This was a great change up, and we also used it as an adjustment if teams were working #2 to the flat on us.  As time went on though, I found my players having to make more and more checks, especially with teams becoming so prolific in the utilization of the Trips formation.  By the time I was in my 8th year as a DC I had 8 checks built into our Quarters scheme!  I felt the whole package was becoming too bulky and was really causing our players to labor and think too much on the football field.

After my 8th season, I got a "gig" as a head coach (HC) at a small school, and a buddy of mine who was a defensive guru himself came there with me.  I used him as the DC, as he was a 4-3 guy too, and he ran the linebackers (LB's) and I ran the secondary.  My first job was going to be refining my playbook and minimizing the amount of checks we had to make during the course of a football game.  The first thing I did was get rid of Quarters (I know, don't hate me just yet)!  It was hard to do, but I felt the right thing to do was to base out of 2 Read.  I worked the entire offseason developing a playbook that was much simpler in the knowledge my players were going to have to retain to be able to align and properly defend our opponents. 

The first, and probably most major refinement was against a pro set and #1 takes a large split.  Our corners were going to play 3 to 5 yards off and in outside leverage of the #1 receiver, so they would have to honor this split.  The safety, with an attached #2 receiver could go no wider than 2 yards outside of this receiver, because he had to be able to play #2 vertical man to man (we'll go into reads later).  So what to do?  We used a technique for our corners called "catch-n-carry".  The toughest route combination you will see out of the pro look is #2 on a flat or arrow route and #1 goes vertical.  By rule, the corner is to come off 1 and play the out by 2.  Where I refined this was, the corner was not to break on the route, yet break on the throw to #2.  We wanted to force that throw, as we felt our corner was in perfect position to play this route with outside leverage on #2.  We told our corners if 2 is out, squeeze 1 (being physical, like a traditional cover 2 corner) and carry him vertical, until you see the throw to 2.  The corner's eyes had to be trained to see the QB's off shoulder, and when it crossed his face, he broke on that shoulder turning to throw the out to the #2 receiver.  Is it perfect, no, but it worked better than trying to get my OLB to run with that route (especially off playaction) and it put us in better position to make the tackle once the ball was caught (remember, the corner has outside leverage on the #2 receiver) and it put us in better position to defend the wheel route by #2.

#2 out, #1 vertical

Go here to see my corners manual for 2 read.

Go here and here to see my safeties manuals for 2 read!

Some of the other refinements I made were how we defended 3 back offenses, trips and trips open as well as empty sets and so forth.  I will save these refinements for later posts.  I just wanted to wet your appetite with some of my 2 read knowledge and see if everybody would be interested in more.  Feel free to comment!

So that's the history of how I came to see 2 read as an every down coverage, easily adaptable to the high school ranks.  In upcoming post I'm planning on expanding more on the run/pass reads as well as some things teams will try and do to beat your 2 read scheme.  I also plan on having a trips and empty session in there somewhere that explains some options you have when an offense gives you these sets.  Hopefully you will find some of it useful! 

For those of you that are lucky enough to have spring football, get ready, it's right around the corner!!!!  Good luck!