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Five Plays that Beat Cover Zero

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

Defenses with an aggressive mindset almost always employ cover 0, and it’s a sure-fire way to create havoc and get offenses out of their comfort zone. 

Offensive coordinators place a high priority on staying out of 3rd and long situations, and whether they’ll tell you straight-up or not, avoiding cover 0 defensive looks is a huge reason for this.

However, the advantages of the coverage also can work against the defense.

Coordinators don’t have to scheme up any world-changing schemes, and if protection holds up, a disciplined QB has the chance to turn the tables against the defense in a hurry.

As they say, the jimmie’s and joe’s outweigh the X’s and O’s.

Elite play-makers on the edge should beam with excitement – the opportunity to create separation and get the band playing becoming a legitimate possibility.

Keep reading to learn more how offenses like to attack cover zero.

How does Cover Zero Work?

Cover Zero is an all-out pressure, meaning that the defense will blitz every player that isn’t responsible for an offensive skill player in man to man coverage. It’s utilized from defenses looking to get quick pressure on the quarterback.

It allows the defense to play fast as the responsibilities are straight-forward, and it forces the quarterback to make a split-second decision to get the ball out of his hands.

However, it means that every player in coverage is truly on an island. Defenses must get home to the quarterback quickly in order to give themselves a chance to be successful with this high-risk/high-reward call.

You can read more about the intricacies of Cover Zero here.

How to Beat Cover 0

Immediate, quick-hitting man beaters are an offenses’ best bet to make a defense pay for bringing an all-out blitz.

Offenses have little time to dial up double-moves or fancy play-action passes when attacking cover 0.  

With this, having an advantage personnel-wise on the perimeter is the icing on the cake. If teams have weapons that can shake free from tight bump and run coverage, an offense can ensure defenses quickly go away from consistently playing cover 0. 

Moving forward, since defenses are bringing as many blitzers as they can, this means that the middle of the field is open. Routes that get the ball to play-makers on the move such as slants, or shallow crossing routes become great answers.  

Along with this, pick plays become lethal regardless of the area of the field an offense is in. In these designs, receivers cross paths within their routes, looking to create natural collisions between defenders as they create space downfield.

#1 Double Slants

This play was taken from 101 Plays from the Ole Miss Offense

Cover Zero Beaters - Double Slants

Cover Zero can be a tough defense to work against, but if the defense is more worried about not giving up the deep ball, you'll find opportunities underneath like this one.

Giving receivers a chance to catch and run against Cover 0 is favorable. With a mirrored slant route concept, the QB can pick his most favorable matchup based on cushion and leverage.

QB Matt Corral wastes little time getting the ball to the ball out of his hands to the field slot WR who picks up a first down and more.  

Watch the play below:

#2 Full-Slide Fade-Out / RB Seam Gadget

This play was taken from 101 Plays from the Oregon Offense.

Cover Zero Beaters - Full Slide RB Seam

This is not a play that's designed for a novice quarterback or running back, but if you have a couple of experienced players and can catch the defense in a bad call, it's going to be wide open.

This gadget from Oregon is a well-timed call against Washington State’s cover 0 look. With full slide protection up front, the RB’s path shows his blitz pickup to the right-edge before he slips up field uncovered for a score.

Watch the play below:

#3 Trips Bunch Jerk Route

This play was taken from 101 Plays from the Michigan Offense 

Cover Zero Beaters - Bunch Jerk Route

A lot of passing offenses have made a living off of this play, especially in the red zone as we see here from Michigan against soft man coverage.

Natural picks and rubs occur out of bunch releases, as Michigan looks to create just that against Penn State. It’s an all-out pressure from the defense, and while they work to pass off the routes, the Z WR still comes open for a first down. 

Watch the play below:

#4 Slant-Rub

This play was taken from 101 Plays from the Wake Forest Offense

Cover Zero Beaters - Slant Rub

You need an answer for hard inside leverage man coverage on the goal line, and this play is a great way to get your best guys open no matter which side the defender is playing heavily.

The slot receiver’s route creates a natural rub for the Z WR coming underneath. Both players have an equal opportunity to win in this design, and Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman delivers a pinpoint high ball to the back of the end zone for a score. 

Watch the play below:

#5 Jerry Rice Motion Slant-Flat

This play was taken from 101 Two Point Plays

Cover Zero Beaters - Jerry Rice Motion

Jerry Rice motion is named for - you guessed it - Jerry Rice. The legendary receiver used this motion all the time when running routes in the West Coast Offense, and used it to get open against cover zero looks like this one on the goal line.

With this style of motion, Dixie State’s slot WR has the chance to lose his man before the ball is even snapped. He does just that, and it’s enough for New Mexico State’s SS to come off of his man to cover the flat, resulting in a wide-open pitch and catch to the TE for a score.

Watch the play below:

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