What Is Cover One Defense In American Football?

cover one

What Is Cover One Defense?

In American football, cover one defense is pass coverage in which each defensive player is assigned to cover a specific receiver. This defense is typically used when the offense is expected to pass the ball frequently. It allows each defender to focus on a particular receiver and prevent them from getting open.

Cover one defenses can be vulnerable to plays where multiple receivers are involved, such as crossing routes, as there may not be a defender in position to stop the play. However, these defenses can effectively shut down plays where a single receiver is a primary target.

The cover-one defense can also force turnovers effectively, as they often pressure the quarterback and force them to make quick decisions.

How To Execute

To execute the cover-one defense, the defensive coordinator will assign free safety to “cover” the deep passing route. At the same time, the other defenders play man-to-man coverage on the shorter routes. The linebackers and defensive linemen may also provide support against the run.

Quick, short passing plays can beat the defense, but it is typically very effective against deep passing plays. The defense is often used when the offense is expected to pass the ball downfield, particularly on first and second down.

When executed properly, the cover-one defense can be a very effective way to slow down an opposing offense. However, the defense can be vulnerable to quick, short passes. For this reason, the defensive coordinator must carefully select when to use this type of coverage.

Positives/Negatives of Running Cover One

As with any defensive scheme in American football, there are both pros and cons to running a Cover One defense. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the argument:

The Pros:

  • Since Cover One is primarily a zone defense, it can be very effective at confusing quarterbacks and forcing them into making mistakes.
  • It also removes the deep passing game, which forces offenses to be more one-dimensional.
  • Lastly, because it only uses one safety deep, it allows for more aggressive playcalling by the other defenders, resulting in more sacks and turnovers.

The Cons:

  • Cover One can be susceptible to quick, underneath passes like all zone defenses.
  • It can also be beaten by smart playcalling, as offenses can exploit the defense’s main weakness (the deep middle of the field) by running plays to the sidelines.
  • Lastly, because it uses only one safety deep, it leaves the defense vulnerable to big plays if that safety is not in the right place at the right time.

At the end of the day, it is up to each individual defensive coordinator to decide whether Cover One is the right scheme for their team. There are certainly pros and cons to running this type of defense, but it can be effective if used correctly.