Having solid technique amongst your defensive back room is vital to prevent big plays over the top or to stop the offense from having too much for free underneath. Subtle differences in alignment, hip position, and coaching tendencies can make all the difference on your team’s backend.
The ability to disguise your coverages can also give you an equalizer against a high-powered offense by not tipping your hand pre-snap, and forcing the opposition to make a quick post snap read.
In this article: Dan Owen, defensive coordinator at Presbyterian College, teaches you how to install trap coverage into your defensive system using film and diagrams.
This article is taken from Coach Owen's 3-part clinic presentation - Advanced Coverage Concepts: The Complete Series.
Check out the video below, or keep reading to learn more
The Trap Flat Technique
Let’s get started by covering how Coach Owen aligns his trap corner: they’re lined up 7 yards off of the line of scrimmage and 2 yards inside of the numbers. The corner should take a quarter turn towards the sideline with their butt slightly angled out.
Their first drive off of the ball is a small 6 inch step with their back foot first.
Based on number 1’s release, the corner will shuffle in or out based on their key which is the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL) through the QB, to number 2, to number 1.
Owen wants his players to see the EMOL because he wants them to read his hat. Based on the defense’s post snap read, they will see either a high hat or a low hat.
The high hat obviously indicates an offensive pass set while the low hat indicates some sort of run get off.
If the corner sees a high hat, they slowly creep backwards, and read the release of number 2. If he goes out, they slow play vs the quarterback's read.
The goal of this technique and coverage is to give the offense the impression that you’re playing simple quarters coverage or a middle open defense. This is how a pre-snap disguise is created.
Coach Owen stresses that all of his defenders play with “strings” on the quarterback’s eyes and cadence. He wants them to already have a jump on what’s coming next which gives them the ability to make a play.
When the QB’s eyes go down, the defense’s pressure begins to show and the coverage reveals itself, but it is already too late for the offense.
Each week during game preparation, coach Owen and his staff show the defense examples of the QB’s cadence to prepare them for how to play the snap of the ball. Their scout team will then replicate it throughout the week.
Becoming familiarized with the intricate details of each QB’s game allows the defense to hide their shells, intent, and blitzes until the last possible second and prevents the offense from keying off of your pre-snap look.
Everything the QB sees and reads should come post snap, which is something he talks more about in his video discussing Rip/Liz Match Coverage.
Trap vs 2 Out
Against a 2 Out concept, the defensive back will read the EMOL to the number 2 player.
As 2 gets vertical, before the 5 yard marker, shuffle out and take a quick glance at number 1 and use a punch technique to disrupt 1.
This player will shuffle, pivot, and sink (a.k.a the sail technique), and get eyes on the QB.
One of coach Owen’s cues is “Q flat you freeze”. This means that the defender must hold off on the hole shot for his safety, and prepare to take the 2 out.
Coach Owen acknowledges that he wants big hits and pick 6’s from his secondary, but he wants to protect the hole shot from gashing the back end of the defense.
The "hole shot" is football coach slang for throwing a pass toward the space between the gap behind the corner and before the safety can get wide enough to make a play on the ball near the sideline, usually around 10-12 yards deep. This is something that every coach needs answers for when playing any form of Cover 2.
Here’s a frame from a film clip shown in the video form of this article. Here, in trap coverage, the field corner plays some good technique in the red zone.
The corner gets a low hat from the EMOL and recognizes that he is up against a 3 man surface with a pull away.
The corner triggers and runs downhill inside of the 1 and outside of the 2 with a wall carry player.
This coverage is a complement to fire zone thirds with a fast and well triggering corner.
Owen loves to call this coverage in the red zone because the field is wider than it is long and condenses the area that the offense has to work with.
Trap vs TE Down
Here the defense is reading from the EMOL to the QB. They key this because the end man never lies. As shown in this clip, the EMOL down shuffles and tips the offense’s hand.
The DB then crossover runs, shuffles, then goes. Coach Owen doesn’t want the DBs eyes to peek at the 1 at all. They shuffle because it protects against the glance concept’s depth against the field side safety. The DB is coached to crossover run once the ball is out of the mesh.
The Hat Drill
This drill reps knowledge of how to react to various blocks and respond as a defense. The coaching staff should give different looks including fan blocks and down blocks which can tip either a run or a pass read. The ability to key these blocks as a defense is crucial.
There are many other ways to rep the drill including g-pulls, slides, and max slides. The drill is all about zoning your defenders’ eyes into seeing how these blocks take place and impact their responsibilities.
In this example, the field corner is up against a 21 personnel look. The defense is running a field safety same fire blitz. The blitz comes from the left side so the defensive line is working to the right.
This type of pressure allows maximum angles to pursue the ball carrier downhill. In this example, the QB pulls the ball out of the mesh to the left and runs outside of the number 1 receiver. The corner comes downhill and makes the play.
Another one of Coach Owen's favorite calls is the Cowboy pressure, brought from the boundary.
Trap Corner Technique
Here coach Owen takes a look at trap vs a 2 out and up concept. The curl flat players always run with the wheel route in this scenario. Their goal is to get outside leverage and smash the route back in.
This allows your deep half player to zone up and try to play a divider half in between 1 and 2.
As 2 starts releasing, the DB shuffles, smashes down, and plays flat to the wheel.
Coach Owen wants to allow the receiver to naturally get on top of the corner because the safety is coming over the top of the route.
Check out the entire 3-part clinic series from Dan Owen HERE.