Cover 2 Beaters

Cover 2 Beaters

Hey guys, thanks again for checking out this post. I really appreciate it. Today we are going to continue to look at some of the best plays against specific coverages. Let’s look at how to beat cover 2.


First, let me give some props to this defense. It is very difficult to beat Cover 2.  I love this coverage if it is played correctly. Most spread systems are on heavy on routes and screens that attack the flats.  Cover 2 takes a lot of these routes away because the CB sits in the flat and waits for outs and arrows and bubbles and hitches.  A lot of the high percentage throws that we like and that get our offenses into rhythm are hindered by a well-played Cover 2.  If I had to try to stop this offense, I would play Cover 2 and Cover 2 Man.

Most teams that play Cover 2 are going to line up their CB’s outside leverage and either jam or strongly resist an outside release by the wideouts. By forcing the wideouts to release inside, they limit how much field the safeties have to cover. The corners should jam and then run the WR while keying #2 to #3.  If #2 goes flat, they release the WR and cover the flat route.  If #2 goes vertical, the CB should keep running with WR.

The OLB’s will usually line up inside of the slot receivers and try to prevent an inside release or crossing route.  They should run the slot for about 12 yards and and then release them to the safeties.  We call this the “Wall and Carry” technique…walling off an inside release while carrying coverage on the slot to 10-12 yards.

There are a couple things that the Mike can do.  Sometimes he will be 1 on 1 with the RB. This is a traditional Cover 2.  If your opponent has an athletic Mike, they might try to play Tampa 2, dropping their Mike to the middle of the field, 15-18 yards deep.  This allows the safeties more latitude to cover vertical routes up the sideline.

Like I said, if it is played well it can be really tough to beat cover 2.

But, do not fret.  There is hope!

First, most high school Corners play a really shoddy version of cover 2.  CB’s don’t jam well and they rarely stay with the WR long enough as he runs vertical up the sideline. This gives the safety far too much ground to cover and opens up a hole.

Second, while outside backers in the NFL and NCAA run 4.5 in the 40 and can cover slot receivers, outside backers in high school are usually not athletic enough to run with your slots, even for 12 yards.  If they had coverage skills they would be playing corner or safety.  They play backer because they can stop the run.

Third, I have only ever played against one middle backer that got to 15+ yards routinely on pass plays.  He was a ridiculous athlete, but he was definitely the exception rather than the rule.  Most of the time the Mike gets to 8-10 yards and even that is limited if you use some play action.

So, where are the holes? First, there is a hole up the sideline behind the CB. Second, there is a hole between the safeties. Third, there is a hole over the middle in front of the safeties and behind the backers. This is especially true if you can get the backers to bite on run.  Remember why they are in cover 2. They want 7 guys looking in the backfield. This means you can use play action to get the backers to step up and create gaps over the middle and in front of the safeties.


Ok, so a little review on game planning. It’s OK to add a tag or a wrinkle, but remember, we don’t need to design new plays to take advantage of the defense. There are plenty of plays in our system that can exploit Cover 2.  The question we want to ask ourselves is: What plays in our system put guys into the holes in this coverage? Also, we want to continue to improve on our stuff.  If we spend the whole week on new stuff, we lose an opportunity to improve what we already do well. Finally, remember that Cover 2 is a balanced look. If you get into trips, they either have to walk a backer out (which leaves only 6 in the box) or they can shift the backside safety over and leave the backside CB to play 1 on 1.


If you are reading this and have not yet downloaded my version of the Air Raid, some of the terminology might not make sense.  Click Here to download the playbook for free.

Beat Cover 2 with the quick game:

Ace Brown – Make your Z and X get an outside release, no matter what. If the CB jams them out of bounds, your H and Y will be open on the quick out. If the CB releases the Z or X there will be a window up the sideline before the safety gets there. Throw the ball on a line.

Trips Double Brown – This is even better than Ace. If you don’t have the rail shot up the sideline, one of the two quick outs will be open.

Ace Red – they are giving you the inside release, be patient and take the slant to the Z or X.

Trips Black – I like the rail shot up the sideline and the stick 1 on 1 against the backer.

Trips Orange – I love the outside slant in this progression.

Trips White – depending on how the defense adjusts to trips, the hitch to the H should be open.

Trips Yellow- This is probably my favorite quick game route against Cover 2. The CB has to make a decision between the slant/stop and the bubble. The corner route should out leverage the safety.

Remember, they are playing a Cover 2 because they want 7 guys committed to the run, If you want to hold the backers, you can tag any of these routes with play action.


Ace Smash –  The CB has to stay with the whip route. You have your H and Y 1 on 1 with the safety.  Tag this with play action to hold the outside backer.

Trips Smash Y Sail – This puts your Y 1 on 1 on a deep out with the outside backer.  It’s also a great sprint out route.

Ace Mesh, Ace X Mesh, Ace Z Mesh – Remember our rules about Mesh.  If there is a defender in the flat, you can teach the mesh runners sit down once they clear the tackle box.

Ace H Option – This could be a huge play.  The playside safety has to choose between the Y cross and the post by the X.  Tag it with play action to hold the Mike.

Ace Levels (All Variations) – If you aren’t catching a theme yet, I run levels against almost every coverage.  It’s such a diverse route.  Just trust your progression.

Trips Verticals – Lots of options here.  The seam is probably the toughest throw because the backer and safety will have your H double covered.  If they don’t cheat their safety to the trips side, I love the over route to the Y.  If they do cheat their safety over, I love the backside fade to the X or Z.

Ace Curl, Trips Curl – This should be an easy completion to the X or Z in front of the safety.


Ok, now for my ultimate Cover 2 beater. This is almost impossible to stop.  If your line can protect, cue the band and the cheerleaders!

In fact, it’s such a good play that we call the route “Z Kill.”

Ace Smash Z Kill



This isn’t really a new play, everyone is running Smash, except the Z and the QB.

This is a 5 step drop for the QB. His eyes start left.  The QB progression on this route is – Corner, Corner, Kill.  There is a temptation to go right to the Kill route, but he needs to make the safeties run with the corner routes in order to open up the middle of the field.  If the safeties stay on the hashes, the corner routes will be wide open. But, they won’t!  They will run to the sidelines as the recognize the corner route and the Z will be wide open.  The 2nd or 3rd time you run it, the safety might cheat for the Kill route…then the Corner will be open.

The Kill route is basically a lazy post, but there are a few key points to teach your Z.  Make sure he comes off the ball flat so the CB releases him.  Then, he should run right behind the Y, single-file, trailing him by about 3 yards.  When the Y breaks his corner, the Z should take 2 more steps and then break his post right between the uprights.  Keep it skinny so the backside safety can’t get involved.

Of course, you can also flip this play and run it to your X.


Guys, thanks again for reading.  Hopefully this will help you as you game plan and get ready for your next Cover 2 opponent.  As always, please feel free to share your successes and/or questions via email or comment. I appreciate you all. Good luck this week!

Keep Chucking It!