Attacking Zone Coverage
Attacking Zone coverage is not an easy task. Many coaches have had success doing it many
different ways but in the long run it is a good idea to know what coverage the defense is in
and where good places are to throw the ball against them.
There are several plays that are designed to be run against Man coverage as well as Zone
coverage but most good man concepts have to be adjusted for the Zone. Some of the most
lethal routes designed for man coverage involve running defenders from one area "off" and
bringing receivers from other areas into the that vacated spot. We sometimes call this "Clear
and Slash." Most coaches and quarterbacks are surprised to find outside linebackers sitting
there waiting to jump your best Man routes when facing a zone.
Most everyone agrees that it is not hard at all to find the "Seams" (areas between defenders
that are hard to cover) in a zone. One of the most demeaning things for a secondary is to
practice skeleton zone drills against the offense without any time limit or rushing linemen.
The QB can just simply pick the defense apart. However, things change when you put those
four or five bullies up front and allow the LBs to start coming in from every direction. Now
the QB not only has to find a safe area to throw the ball to but he has a severe time limit and
may be running for his life.
With the kind of pressure that QB will see it is a very good idea if they have a knowledge of
where the weak points in a secondary are prior to each play. We don't want to overload our
QB with too much to do and remember so we want to simplify it for him as much as possible
and let him concentrate on getting his job done.
Early in the season or in Spring Ball we go over some basic concepts of Zone Coverage and
show him the areas to attack each type of coverage. We do this with our receivers as well.
Above is a typical 3 deep concept that we see a good deal of during the season. The
defense can do many things from this look but if they all drop into their coverage areas it
will look like this. You can see that we have inserted the holes and seams into the
diagram. You can also see that the deeper you throw the ball the less likely you are to
complete it and the higher the likely hood of an interception. One reason for this is the
amount of time it takes the ball increases the farther it travels down the field. This does
not mean that you can't throw deep routes but it does demonstrate to the QB that if he
gets to much air under the ball or is off even a little in his accuracy the deep ball will get
There are many holes in the short zone areas (five in all) but they are very small. To
throw short you must make good quick decisions and you need to be precise.
You can see that an
outside LB blitz can
create a huge
opportunity for a big
completion. The OLB
from the left created a
huge hole in the
defense. The question is
are you and your team
in a position to take
advantage of it. You will
see a blitz like this when
you motion someone for
a Jet Sweep look
Because of the huge hole
created when an OLB and
same side LB blitz you
will rarely see a same side
blitz. It does occur but
you are much more likely
to see a blitz from the
outside and the opposite
side like the one below.
In this double blitz you can
see that the pressure is
going to be on the QB but
now nice extra large holes
have been created in the
near zone. Plays that have
quick simple reads over the
middle or in the flats can
really take advantage of this
type of blitz. We call these
types of plays Blitz Busters.
They are specifically
designed to take advantage
of the blitz but we also have
regular routes with "Blitz
Check" that provide an easy
"out" for out QB.
Xstreme Schemes vol. 2 concentrated on attacking man to man defenses. As we
progressed into spread schemes that were bases primarily on the running game with a
healthy dose of Play-Action and motion we saw less and less M2M coverage.
The Renegade Offense playbook is designed primarily for zone coverage. Most of the
play-action included in that playbook will work with little to no adjustment for M2M
You can check out the Renegade Playbook by <clicking here>
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