Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Safer Way to Play Quarters Coverage Part II

Well after the first installation on this topic, I'll talk now about some of the adjustments that can be made to defend the weaknesses of Quarters coverage.  This is not going to be a long post, as most of my stuff has been pirated from the likes of Jerry Gordon, as well as some of what Gary Patterson is doing at TCU.  However, failure to mention some of this stuff would inevitably flood my inbox with questions, so I figured why not go ahead and write a post about it?

If you don't own this book, stop reading and go buy it NOW!

The Weaknesses of Quarters Coverage
Typically the first thing you hear people say when asked why they don't run Quarters coverage, or what is the weakness of Quarters coverage is that the flats are weak.  This is so very true, there is not denying this simple fact.  However, let's look at the issue and see why coaches still employ this coverage despite this glaring weakness.

Any coverage that has the flats defended from inside-out is going to be weaker in that area.  The reason being is that a displaced receiver has a yardage advantage over the defender covering him.  Now, move the defender out over the number one receiver and the defense gains a tactical advantage, somewhat.  The flat defender, generally is responsible for forcing the ball back inside on run plays.  Remove this player from the core of the defense, and the offense now gains the tactical advantage on the run.  So, the idea here is to be able to do both.  Of course the way to do both, is in-game adjustments and from scouting, but also from having built-in answers to your coverage issue.  Enter in Cover Two Read.  Some call it a soft Cover Two or a Sink Cover Two, but no matter, it's a way of getting the best out of Quarters and Cover Two, otherwise known as halves coverage.  Again, none of this has no been talked about before, and all of the calls I'm mentioning can be found in Jerry Gordon's book "Coaching the Under Front Defense".

Alert Coverage
Alert Coverage is a tag added to Quarters, that changes the assignment of the corner and the outside linebacker (OLB).  Alert is the way Quarters morphs into Two Read.  Alert is not a good call against a large displacement by the two receivers, nor is it a very good call against a single receiver side.  Alert Coverage is meant to be called to two detached receivers.  Here are the rules:

Alignment: Corner will still align in traditional alignment of seven yards off and in outside shade.  Corner can also use a press and bail technique.

Assignment: The corner will still play man-to-man on the number one receiver on anything but shallow routes.  Against a wheel call (an out by the number two receiver, called by the safety), the corner will now funnel the number one receiver into the safety and get eyes to the number two receiver.  As the corner sinks, and funnels, he is awaiting to break on the throw to the number two receiver.  The corner only comes off of the number one receiver once the ball is thrown to this receiver.  The corner is also responsible for the wheel by the number two receiver.

Alignment: The safety, in Alert Coverage must align deeper than he would in traditional Quarters Coverage.  The safety should align 10 to 12 yards deep and be two yards inside the number two receiver.

Assignment: The safety will still play flat-footed, buzz or shuffle on the snap.  All reads are the same as Quarters, except if the number two receiver goes out.  If the number two receiver goes out (usually under the depth of eight yards), then the safety makes the "wheel" call alerting the corner that he now has a route coming at him.  The safety will now pedal and get eyes to the number one receiver.  The safety, on a "wheel" call is now responsible for the number one receiver vertical.

Alignment: The OLB no longer has to walk out as far against two detached receivers.  The linebacker (LB) can play closer to the box, but should walk out a minimum of five yards from the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL).  Into the boundary the OLB need not walk out at all.

Assignment: The OLB is a wall player.  He will wall all crossing routes, and will get hands on any vertical stem by the number two receiver.  The OLB will play the curl zone, and pass crossers off to the middle linebacker (MLB).  The OLB is responsible for the wheel of the number three receiver, should one present itself.

Alignment: Based on formation.

Assignment: The MLB's assignment is the same in Alert Coverage as it is in Quarters Coverage.

Alert is a great Quarters check for those teams running a lot of quick game against you.  It is still safe against four verticals as the corner is still really playing a deep quarter of the field with his technique if the number two receiver doesn't go out.  Alert is not a good check to a wide displacement by the number one and number two receivers.  If this distance is large, the safety cannot get over the top of the number one receiver, or must cheat his alignment to the point of losing leverage on the number two receiver running vertical.

How the run is defended out of this look is still a matter of debate.  Since I based out of Quarters, and my safeties were my run fit guys, I left it the same in this coverage.  I've had some die-hard Two Read guys tell me I was wrong, but in my opinion, this is just a check, or adaptation to Quarters.  I'm not looking to major in Quarters with a minor in Cover Two.  I just need a check that can help with the quick game against two displaced receivers.  No need to change up everything I'm doing with my base coverage.  I recommend keeping the safety as the force player, but to each their own.

Jump Call
Jump is a more aggressive version of the Alert Coverage shown above.  Jump would be what some refer to as hard Cover Two, or a squat Cover Two look.  Here the corner will reroute the number one receiver, but will not carry him, if he gets a "wheel" call from the safety.  The corner can align the same as always, but with the Jump call, he will actually jump the out by number two rather than the throw to the number two receiver.  For the safety, he will need to align a bit deeper, and possible wider, depending on the split taken by the number one receiver, however he should never align wider than the inside eye of the number two receiver.  With the jump call, the safety must pedal at the snap.  He will not be guaranteed any help if the number two receiver is out, coupled with a vertical stem by number one.  The OLB and MLB play things the exact same way as they do in Alert Coverage.

Might as well...

Jump is when, by game plan, you have the bead on the OC trying to throw the bubble or the arrow routes.  Jump is a very good call to mix in as it will show you have the ability to play some hard Cover Two, even though you are a base Quarters team.  Jump is not a good call when expecting a vertical by the number one receiver, because you aren't guaranteed that the traditional "hole" in Cover Two will be helped by the corner as it would be in Alert Coverage.  Think of the two coverages this way, Alert is safe, Jump is a bit more risky.

Bronco is a coverage that TCU has made famous over the past few seasons.  The rules are simple, and in the end it's basically off man.  You can play Bronco Coverage with a banjo concept, or hard and fast man-only-deep (MOD) rules.  However you choose to play it, the coverage is very good against the "spread-to-run" offenses many of us are seeing these days.  The rules for Bronco Coverage are as follows:

Alignment: The alignment depends on how aggressive you want to be.  I start out teaching a no-switch off man principle, so I play my corners pressed (see diagram below).  The corner is a man-everywhere-he-goes (MEG) defender in Bronco.  Now, if you play a banjo concept, you will want the corner to play deeper, and my recommendation would be to play him at his traditional depth of seven yards, shaded inside the receiver, however.  Neither way is wrong, nor is it better than the other, and I will explain the rules of the two concepts later in this post.

Assignment: When I first teach this, I teach it to the corners as a MEG concept.  For our corners, this coverage is no different than Cover Zero (pure man).  Now if I'm teaching the banjo concept, then the corner has a similar rule to his standard rule in Quarters with one simple change.  In Quarters, the corner will take the number one receiver man, unless he's shallow (routes breaking under eight yards).  In Bronco, I do two things, I reduce the depth to five yards to declare vertical, and I add the words "out".  So, in Bronco, utilizing a banjo concept, I tell my corner he has the number one receiver vertical and out.

Alignment: The safety will align six yards off and one yard inside a detached number two receiver.  This changes to one yard outside an attached receiver (with five yards of the core of the formation).

Assignment: The safety will have the same rules as the corner in both the basic version of Bronco and the banjo version.  The safety is responsible for the number two receiver vertical and out.  Again, as with the corner, the depth of what I tell them "vertical" is, will be reduced to five yards.  Against inside cuts by the number two receiver, the safety has the choice of calling "push" if he feels the route isn't vertical.  This tells the OLB to let the running back (RB) go, and the safety will now take him.  If the safety feels this route is vertical, of course he would not give the OLB a call and would run with this route man-to-man.  If the safety does give a "push" call, then he will now rob the curl to post of the number one receiver (as he would in Quarters Coverage).

Alignment: The OLB can take his base alignment as if there was not a detached number two receiver.  In other words, he can remain in the box.  He will even remain in the box against trips formations.  This coverage is designed to free up the LB's to remain in the box and is more focused on them stopping the run than the pass.

Assignment: The OLB, as with Alert and Jump tags, is a wall player and will handle all crossing routes in this coverage.  Crossing routes are passed off between the OLB's and the MLB.  The major difference in Bronco Coverage, when talking to LB's is that they are not dropping off of a numbered receiver.  The OLB's as well as the MLB are responsible for the RB.  The OLB's will take the wheel of the RB, unless given a "push" call by the safety.  

The MLB's assignment is the same as he would in Quarters.  He is the middle hole dropper and assigned to cover the number RB vertical.

Bronco with no banjo concept

Bronco with the banjo concept

The sole purpose behind Bronco Coverage is to be able to keep the OLB's in the box to defend the run.  I've heard some folks call this "Box Coverage".  Whatever you call it, the coverage is a great adaptation for those posing spread folks that try to play a seven on five or six game in the box by spreading you out with receivers.  No need to get the defense bent out of shape if your opponent doesn't throw the ball out to the receivers very much, or those receivers are no threat to your defense.  The coverage is still safety force, but the OLB's are in a position to handle some of this responsibility as well.  I teach Bronco with a catch-man philosophy, and it does take a bit of getting used to.  The edges of the defense can be soft at times if the wide receivers (WR's) are good at making their stalk blocks look like routes.

Bronco is better served, being played to one side of the field, preferably the short side of the field as shown below.  In the illustration you can see that the OLB is allowed to stay in his home alignment because the coverage to his side is Bronco.  This allows this player to focus more on stopping the run, and less on having to get out to a pass zone.  To the field side you can play whatever you like, in my example, I'm playing Quarters to the field.

Bronco can even be played into three-by-one formations.  It's aggressive, but it is a good coverage if you have the cats to run it.  The only adaptation that needs to be made, is that the single side corner will now have to man up, as he is all alone due to the weak safety being moved over to the trips side of the coverage.  The weak side is played just like Solo coverage.

Bronco into trips

In conclusion, with a few calls and adaptations you can set up Quarters Coverage to work versus many of the common formations and route concepts in the game today.  Now, if you have the time, I recommend installing all of these adjustments.  In the past, I've been able to get Quarters in and perhaps one or two other calls (usually Bronco and Alert).  One year, I ran only Quarters and Bronco and it worked out just fine for the young group I had.  No matter what you do, there will need to be adjustments that you make, as every coverage has a weakness to it, and Quarters Coverage is no exception.