Cover 6 is a blend of two separate coverages: Cover 4 and Cover 2. As a result, it looks very similar to Cover 3 with three deep defenders and four underneath. It offers the ability to disguise, protect against the passing strength, and has safeties that are active in the run game.
Cover 6 Philosophy
Cover 6 is used to provide extra deep support to the field and to give help over the top if a team likes to put their best receiver away from the strength of the formation. This is especially helpful when the defense is faced with 3×1 sets from the offense.
To the Cover 2 side, the safety can disguise by playing tighter on the hash before widening outside. The corner can either jam at the line to give the safety time to get to his spot or bait quick throws outside with off coverage. Any flat and short route combinations can also be passed off between the linebacker and flat corner.
To the Cover 4 side, the safety and corner responsible for their deep quarter of the field can bracket or work with the Will to allocate any three-man or two-man route combinations.
Cover 6 Assignments
- Cover 2 Corner
- Hands on #1 receiver funneling them inside
- Sink and collect any routes that enter the flats with eyes in the backfield
- Must carry any vertical routes to help safety get to their deep half before reacting to the flats
- Cover 4 Corner
- Responsible for the deep quarter of the field to their side
- If #1 goes vertical further than 10 yards in your zone, match in man coverage
- If #1 goes short or inside, get eyes on #2
Free Safety (Cover 2 Safety):
- Responsible for deep half to their side
- The free safety is typically more athletic and better in coverage which allows them to cover more space than the strong safety (half of the field vs. a quarter of the field)
- Split the difference between any vertical routes while protecting their deep half
- Stay deeper than the deepest
Strong Safety (Cover 4 Safety):
- Responsible for deep quarter to their side
- If #2 goes vertical further than 10 yards in your zone, match in man coverage
- If #2 goes short or to the flats, get eyes on #1
- Cover 2 Linebacker
- Hands on #2 funneling them outside
- Sink and collect routes in the seam and hook zone at depth of 10-12 yards between numbers and hash
- Cover 4 Linebacker
- Hands on #2 funneling them outside
- Sink and pursue to flat
- Cannot be out-leveraged outside
- Wall crossers
- Sink and collect vertical threats down the middle or get under deep crossers
The biggest weakness of Cover 6 is the same weakness in Cover 4. The Cover 4 side of the coverage struggles to get the flat defender outside fast enough without help from the corner that’s bailing to his deep quarter. That allows for teams to quickly attack the flats. To combat that issue, the Raiders are bumping their flat defender out wide to be able to immediately occupy that space. As that player back pedals to protect the curl, though, he sees no flat routes from the #1 or #3 receiver inside and continues to carry #2 vertically. That leaves the backside (Cover 2) linebacker as the one responsible for carrying the single receiver across the field underneath. The Cover 4 linebacker has carried vertical and can’t help carry the crosser. As a result, the Bears get to the flats and are able to occupy all three Cover 4 defenders with their three receivers to that side which opens up space for a run after catch opportunity underneath.
Here, the Broncos have Cover 4 to the bottom of the screen and Cover 2 to the top. You can see the vulnerabilities in each coverage with the two concepts that the Bears are running. At the top, they’re running Smash and to the bottom they’re running a Curl/Flat concept called Hank. To the bottom, the flats are immediately open with the Cover 4 linebacker not able to get out quickly enough. To the Cover 2 side, the Smash concept is high-lowing the corner. The corner is attempting to carry the corner route deep to help the safety, but that leaves the flat route with space underneath him. However, the safeties and corners that are covering deep are all able to stay on top of the vertical routes and force the offense to check the ball down underneath.
Cover 6 Beaters
Cover 6 adds one more layer to the defensive coverage that can cause mistakes on offense. It covers deep to the passing strength, offers some disguise, and shows different coverage rules and alignments to different sides of the field. However, it’s vulnerable underneath, needs a free safety with range, and can be attacked off play-action with safeties having run responsibilities.