Today, we are going to continue to talk about football practice plans and teaching the quarterback and wide receiver to read coverages. Remember, one of the reasons you’re trying to teach your quarterbacks and wide receivers the ability to read coverage before the ball is snapped is to allow them to have an idea or a plan based on, whether it’s a run play or a pass play, which is the most optimum release, best optimum stem, if you are making conversions in your routes, what conversions to make, and it also allows the quarterback and wide receiver to kind of predetermine what that coverage is dictating them as far as the play goes.

So let’s get started….

Roofline Reads

Roofline - Coverage ReadHere is a perfect example of a cover 2 roofline read. Here we are in a formation where we have two tight ends and two flankers. So it’s a very balanced set. Pro to one side and pro to the other side. Now, when we have a balanced set, we always read field first and then scan ourselves across.

If you look at the roofline right now, we have two corners who are relatively close in proximity to the line of scrimmage and we have two safeties who’ve got a little bit better depth. This to us would be a distinct advantage. We see that they’re going to either be playing cover 2 on the snap of the ball, both corners up and play flat. And on the snap of the ball, the safeties will work over the top to have field coverages.

Or, if they were a big disguise stem team, they could actually bring the safeties low on the snap of the ball and play what we call cover 4. Either way, based on the distinct roofline, our quarterback has an advantage on the pre-snap read. He’s thinking it’s either cover 2 or cover 4.

Coaches, let me say this to you. When you break down your film in the week prior to the game that you’re playing, you want to get as much information as you can to your quarterback and receivers about pre-snap read.

One of the ways, and I think probably the most elementary and still one of the most successful ways even if a team stems, is to give them as many roofline advantages as you possibly can.

Best Located Safety Reads

A second way to start teaching quarterbacks and wide receivers how to read coverages is by teaching what we call best located safety. In most of the fronts/coverages that we go against, there are going to be two safeties involved in the coverage scheme. One way to really help locate and identify the coverages is by identifying one of the two safeties, and in this case we’ll take the strong safety, and see if he’s in one of three positions.

Invert Position

If he’s in an invert position, this means he’s splitting the difference on the two-receiver side between the widest receiver and the second widest receiver and he’s splitting about five to six yards off the line of scrimmage. That should be a real indicator that it’s going to be some form of cover 3 and he’s a curl flat player.

High Position

We also say to our quarterbacks and receivers, if the strong safety is located high – meaning a depth of deeper than eight yards off the line of scrimmage – it’s a strong indicator to us that he’s in cover 2, half field coverage, two-man half field coverage, or cover 4 where he’s playing quarter coverage over the top.

Low Position

The third place that he can be is he can be low. And we talk about two different indicators about being low. Low over the number two receiver means that he’s probably in some type of man coverage. If he’s low and off the edge of the widest player that side of the line of scrimmage, it’s a strong indicator that he’s in some kind of blitz mode and you’d better be ready to get us into a quick pass game or make sure that we can throw a pass before the strong safety gets to us.

Now, coaches, you need to understand this. When you start talking about best located safeties, make sure you’ve analyzed the film and understand which is the most advantageous safety for your quarterback to be keying on and your receivers.

We always think that you’ve got to give your quarterbacks a variety of ways to read the coverage, and then each game might dictate which of the two or three coverage reads you use in that particular game.

Next we’ll discuss how each of those locations of the safety will help you dictate the coverage they’re possibly in.

Best Located Safety Examples

So, here are two examples of a strong safety being in an invert position. In the top one we have an inverted versus a pro formation, splitting the difference between the Y and the Z, the tight end and the flanker, which really indicates to us he’ll probably be in a curl flat mode in coverage responsibility.

Best Located Safety Examples


Here’s a strong safety in an invert position versus a twins set. Z and an X, flanker and a split end. Usually the strong safety is taught to have a little bit of inside leverage over the number two receiver, which again would be a very strong indicator to us that he would have curl flat responsibility.

So when we talk about a way to read the safety, identify who the strong safety is and find out if he’s in an invert position. Invert position to us is a very strong indicator of cover 3. Three deep and four underneath, with a strong safety having the strong curl the strong flat areas.





Best Located Safety ExamplesThe second way that indicates coverage is if the strong safety is located high. For example, on the pro set that we had, here we have the two-receiver side, and now the strong safety is located high over number two. Probably eight to 10 yards deep. Some guys are playing a little bit deeper, up to 12 yards. This would give us a strong indication, cover 2, he’s got a half, or a cover 4, he’s got a quarter.

Now we look down and we think an even stronger indicator is when you put yourself in some kind of twins or one-back formation and the strong safety remains high, eight to 10 to 12 yards off the line of scrimmage.

And now somebody from the box, the linebacker moves himself out. Again, a very strong indicator that the safety’s going to stay high in his cover 2 or cover 4. Either half field coverage or some type of quarter coverage.



Best Located Safety ExamplesThe third way we’ve talked about being able to recognize that strong safety as the best located safety is if the strong safety is low. In the top diagram, the strong safety is in close proximity to the line of scrimmage. Maybe six to eight yards.

But yet he is over number two. Remember in our invert, he was splitting the difference between our tight end and our flanker. Now he’s lined up low, but he’s directly over number two. This is a strong, strong indicator that he has locked up man-to-man coverage with the number two receiver.

Down here at the bottom we have a strong safety really low, at the line of scrimmage. And usually there is a line outside the number two receiver to the strong side. This should be a primary indicator to us that the strong safety is in some kind of blitz mode and now we’ve got man-to-man coverage behind it.

Best Located Safety Scans

Best Located Safety ScansSo, let’s give you an indicator of what we’ve talked about. A perfect example of the cover 3 look with a strong safety in the inverted position. We have the strong safety, lined up equal distance between the tight end and the flanker, and about four to five yards off the ball. It’s a very strong indicator that he’s going to have strong curl to strong flat area.

And of course, as we continue our discussion, you always have to make sure that if a team’s doing some disguising, or what we call banjo-ing – combination coverage with a free safety and a strong safety – that you have to add an additional read, which we’ll get into.

But back to our pre-snap read – here’s a perfect example of a strong safety low but in an invert position, the strong safety playing a little curl flat.


Best Located Safety ScansAnd here’s another strong indicator of our strong safety being low on number two. Head up, nobody over the top. This is a strong, strong indicator of man-to-man coverage.

Here is a perfect example of the strong safety being low, but lined up, head up, over number two, which is a strong indicator on pre-snap read that we’re getting man-to-man coverage – a perfect example of man-to-man coverage on number two.

Best Located Safety ScansNow, taking that same principle about the best located safety, here’s the strong safety. Look where he is – he’s high, which would give us an indicator. Cover 2, if the corners are low; cover 4 if the corners are over the top. But again, the best located safety is high.







So that’s another way you can predict, pre-snap and snap of ball, what the coverage of the defense is going to be.   I will be continuing to expand on this topic in the near future, so be sure to check back often!   And don’t forget to Follow Me on Twitter, where I will share more great drills, techniques and tips!

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