Calling the proper coverages in the right circumstances can be crucial to the outcome of your game, entire season, and success of your defense. Different coverage rules and coverage techniques will change the defense’s ability to respond to offenses attacking certain areas of the field.
In this article, we will cover the 4 categories of Dante Bartee’s 4-2-5 coverage concepts and the coaching points that he implements into each.
Watch the video below to get the full experience, or see the entire six-part presentation from Dante Bartee HERE.
The most basic coverage concept that coach Bartee uses with his players is a simple man look. This is where every coverage defender has a pre-snap assignment and locks onto his man for the duration of the play.
The defender will usually be tight to the receiver and allow as little cushion as possible after the player releases from the line of scrimmage.
Zone coverage becomes a bit more complex. Coach Bartee’s zone buzzwords/coaching points are: spot drop, vision, break, and reroute. The most popular uses of this coverage concept are spot drop Cover 3 and the Tampa 2 defense.
A player in the spot drop defense will be actively visioning the quarterback at the snap of the ball, dropping to an area, ignoring the specific pattern that a WR is running, and break on the ball once the quarterback raises his arm.
If a receiver enters into a defender’s zone he should not read and chase his route, rather he should get hands on and disrupt his path or aiming point. This goes back to coverage players not needing to care about the distribution of the offensive pattern. The receiver's depth and route type do not matter in zone coverage. The DB only breaks on the ball when the QB sets up his launching point. This is the key difference between man and zone principles.
Zone Match Coverage
The next coverage concept is zone match. In match concepts the defenders will drop to an area, and unlike traditional spot drop coverage, the match defenders will relate to the receivers in his area.
Coach Bartee emphasizes playing top-down and stacking zones. A popular example of this is the cover 3 match concept (aka Rip & Liz match).
On each snap, there are defenders dropping to the hook, seam, and curl. As the play develops, the defense will relate to any receivers entering into these zones. It is important to continue playing with zone integrity in match concepts, but every route has its own rules.
For example, if a Mike linebacker has to drop to the hook, then he will drop to the top of the zone. He will stack the first thing that shows in his area and play top-down leverage with his zone integrity principles.
Stacking the zone means to sit on top of a route and play on top of the receiver’s hip, but not on it. The idea is that this keeps the defense ordered in 3 levels. This also helps protect underneath defenders from getting undressed over the top.
Zone & pattern match defenses are easiest to ID based on the technique of the underneath players. This is because it’s difficult to read the coverage from an offensive perspective based on the technique of the deep secondary. In many situations, this gives a slight edge to the defense by providing a subtle disguise.
It’s also easier to notice these differences on tape than it is to ID the defense at game speed since the techniques aren’t easily distinguishable. The one indicator that the offense may have is the tightness of the coverage off the line of scrimmage.
Coach Bartee’s one general principle is to play with a smash rule in zone coverage concepts. However, there is no smash rule in his man coverage principles. He will let the offense throw the ball out in front of a zone match defense. For example, if you’re a seam/curl flat defender, you will run with a seam route because a receiver ran into your zone. In match coverage, you are not passing off receivers and playing the QB’s eyes.
This is reserved for zone spot drop concepts.
Man Match Coverage
Coach Bartee’s final coverage concept is man match. In this concept, the defender has a man, but may take another man based on a set of rules. This is demonstrated in what he calls his cut coverage. For example, a Will linebacker with 2 on top and 2 inside is playing man-to-man. If the receiver breaks inside, the WLB will keep him in front of him, but if he breaks outside then he will pass the receiver to the corner and cup the inbreaking #1 WR with man eyes.
Defenders will not drop to zone or create cushion for the receivers in this concept. In some cases, a LB may not be pressing the line of scrimmage, but they will lock their eyes onto a player detaching from the backfield. A popular example of man match coverage is the rat in the hole defense.
See more from this course and Dante Bartee HERE