Cover 2

Casey Sully
cover 2

Cover 2 is a zone coverage with two deep safeties protecting the deep halves of the field. The rest of the defense is responsible for five underneath zones. Cover 2 takes away deep routes down the sideline, but can be vulnerable down the middle of the field and in the run game.

Cover 2 Philosophy

Cover 2 relies on athletic underneath defenders that understand their assignments and vulnerabilities of the coverage. Zones are not static and receivers must be carried and passed off to the deep defenders. Without re-routing and carrying routes underneath, the safeties have too much field to cover and can be attacked downfield.

cover 2

In a pure zone Cover 2, the defense all has their eyes on the quarterback and can jump routes and make plays on the ball unlike in man coverage. That prevents offenses from hitting quick passes underneath while still giving the defense deep help to stop the vertical pass.

cover 1
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Cover 1

Cover 2 Assignments


  • Outside or head-up alignment on #1
  • Outside gap run contain
  • Hands on #1 receiver, funneling them inside towards help
  • Sink and collect any routes that enter the flats outside with eyes in backfield
    • Must first carry any vertical routes like a fade or corner before reacting to the flats


  • Teams align at different depths based on down and distance, level of competition, and athletic ability, but the range is from 12-18 yards
  • Some teams prefer to give their safeties no run responsibility, but others assign the alley to the safeties in run support
    • The alley is the area between the corners and the end of the offensive formation
  • Pedal and split the difference between any two vertical routes while protecting their deep half
  • Stay as deep as the deepest route

Nickel / Outside Linebackers:

  • Inside gap run support
  • Hands on #2, funneling them outside
  • Sink and collect routes in the seam and hook zone at a depth of 10-12 yards between the numbers and the hash
  • Carry vertical routes and routes attacking the middle of the field before reacting to throws underneath

Middle Linebacker:

  • Inside gap run support
  • Head on a swivel looking to wall crossers
  • Sink and collect routes coming across the middle with eyes in the backfield
dragon concept
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Dragon Concept

Cover 2 Variations

Tampa 2:

  • Tampa 2 uses the Mike linebacker to operate as a third safety in the middle of the field
    • The only two positions whose assignments change are the safeties and the middle linebacker
      • Safeties:
        • The safeties are still responsible for their deep halves of the field, but they are now free to widen more quickly to vertical outside routes since they have help in the middle
      • Middle Linebacker:
        • The Mike drops to the deep middle and runs with any inside vertical route while turning his hips to the passing strength
cover 2 tampa
duo concept
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Duo Concept

Cover 2 Man:

  • Cover 2 Man, or 2 Man, is run like Cover 1, but with two deep safeties protecting the deep halves
    • All other players are in man coverage underneath
cover 2 man


The Chiefs are playing both their corners with slight outside or head-up leverage and forcing the #1 receivers to take inside releases. That funnels them inside towards the safeties and prevents the safeties from having to widen and expose the middle of the field. To the bottom of the screen, you can see the corner carry #1 vertically up to the safety before coming off to take the route in the flats. The outside linebacker to that side is dropping to their hook/seam zone, but cuts his depth short at eight yards. That leaves a window for the Bills to wrap a dig route in behind him. However, since the corner helped carry that route, the safety was able to stay under control and break on the route without fear of getting beat over the top.

The biggest vulnerability of Cover 2 is the middle of the field and down the seam. That matches up linebackers on receivers in the dead zone before the safeties. Teams will wrap players into that area and attempt to attack the deep middle when faced with Cover 2.

When playing Tampa 2, teams will work option routes underneath fast-dropping middle linebackers like the Dolphins did here. Off the snap, the Mike immediately opens their hips to the passing strength (bottom of the screen) with three receivers. As he runs to protect the deep middle, Gesicki throttles down his route to attack the vacated space that the Mike just left. The Jets know this is a common adjustment and are trying to drop their defensive end, #93 into that area to take away the window. However, they don’t get enough depth and Miami gets the completion.

Lastly is an example of the Rams rotating into Cover 2 man after showing one safety. The defenders underneath are in man coverage and the deep safeties fly to help the deep routes outside off of the rotate. The man coverage tightens the window and the safeties are able to stay over the top to force the incompletion from Dak Prescott.

Cover 2 Beaters

smash concept
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Smash Concept
mills concept
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Mills Concept
sail concept
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Sail Concept
dagger concept
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Dagger Concept
lion concept
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Lion Concept


Cover 2 may sacrifice having a player in the box to help in the run game, but at its best, it forces the ball underneath, gives the opportunity for the defense to disguise coverages, and is a relatively simple coverage for the defense to run.

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