quarterback reads

Gaining Quarterback Reads from Corner Alignment

In today’s blog post, we are talking in more details about gaining quarterback reads, based on corners being aligned outside and corners being aligned inside.

One of the things we think about, in general terms is that when the defense is in zone, their corners appear to be a little bit softer and a little bit farther aligned outside the widest receiver to his respective side. You see in the diagram a dotted arrow kind of pointing towards the quarterback because we always tell our receivers and our quarterback, try to get a general idea of the body language of the corner. In zone coverage he’s turned slightly in, and his hips are turned toward the quarterback.

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And we really think his focus is on the quarterback because the quarterback will tell him whether it’s a run or a pass. In man coverage, a lot of defensive back coaches and coordinators bring their corners a little bit tighter to the line of scrimmage to help prevent the quick game – sometimes maybe six to eight yards in their depth. They’re aligned inside probably with their outside foot being inside of your alignment and their focus is on the receiver – eyes on the receiver and hips on the receiver.

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You want to watch the corner back’s body language because a lot of times when they’re in man coverage, they fidget a little bit more and they’re in a deeper backpedal stance prior to their backpedal. They will give some signals that obviously they’re going to be in man coverage.

Now, you might have a team that’s going to disguise the heck out of their coverages. Then you do what I just told you after the snap of the ball. Because once the ball is snapped, the defensive backs can no longer hide their coverage. And that will then allow you, on the run, to examine some of these things that we have talked about.

Now let’s take a look at the corners being low and outside, and the corners being low and inside.

First let’s look at the corner being aligned low and outside. Here’s where I think it becomes very critical for you as a coach, and for your quarterback and receivers, to be able to tie in the best located safety into this coverage read.

We have a corner that’s distinctly outside, probably turned at a 45-degree, and his focus is into the quarterback. That should tell our quarterback and receivers that he’s responsible for flat area, and their next read should be over the top to see if there’s a safety that’s in a high position, playing what we call half field coverage. Of course, obviously, those two things tie together very significantly.

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On the second diagram we have the corners align at about the same depth, but there’s a distinct difference in where he’s aligned. He’s aligned inside the widest receiver’s technique and he’s not looking back at the quarterback. His focus seems to be on the flanker, or the receiver to his respective side. We call that two-man or five underneath man-to-man coverage two deep. And we always tie in the safety involved in that coverage scheme.

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And the third one we are going to talk about is where the corner appears to be more head up, with a more squared stance, and he’s got a little bit of an inside alignment. But as you look over the top, the safety has disappeared. That is a true indicator to us that they’re blitzing six, seven, or eight, and that corner is going to be in man coverage.

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You really need to work hard for your quarterback and receivers to recognize that coverage because if that coverage presents itself, you’ll be in a situation where you might check out of certain plays and check into others, or it might constitute a different blocking scheme by your wide receivers.

Either way, they need to be able to recognize when the corner’s low, but it doesn’t look like he’s either outside or inside with those techniques and demeanors we talked about, which is a strong indicator of blitz man, or what we call cover 0.

There’s also a fourth way to establish a read on the coverage.

The most effective way to use the next coverage read is when a team plays a traditional cover 3, which is three deep and four underneath. The will backer, the weak outside linebacker, has the same responsibility as the strong safety does to the split end side of the formation. There are a number of ways in which you can help predict the basis of the coverage by checking the wheelbacker.

Now, when would you use the will backer as opposed to the strong safety? You have to understand if the defense is doing what we call banjo coverages. That means putting the strong safety in an invert position on the two-receiver side, but yet actually working a banjo combination on the tight end and the near back.

So that if the tight end goes to the flat, the strong safety jumps him, and the backer takes the near back; or if the tight end goes inside, the inside backer takes him and the safety takes the near back. It is a great way to disguise cover 3. So you have to understand if somebody’s using that technique on you, using a banjo or some technique where they’re combo-ing somebody, then it’s sometimes good to use the will backer.

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We talk about four areas that the will backer can align. Two of the areas are the exact same kind of reads that you applied to the strong safety. One of those we call a force position. What does a force position mean? He’s up on the line of scrimmage in a position that indicates he’s going to be primary run support.

Depending on where he is in that force position, it could be an indicator to you that there is a weak side outside linebacker blitz and/or, depending on how you tie in your best located safety, it could be an indicator that you have three-deep zone.

Another alignment by that will backer, which is also a strong indicator that we’re going to have cover 3, is the will backer gets into an adjusted position. He removes himself from the line of scrimmage and puts himself in a stack position.

Now, coaches, be careful if that position ends up being a stack position because that’s a real strong indicator that it might be blitz.

The third position is walkaway. Walkaway is the easiest indicator and the easiest read for the quarterback. I always tell the quarterback that if you see a wheelbacker in a walkaway position, almost 99% of the time, it’s going to be some form of three-deep coverage.

So these are some indicators that you can use on the split side of the formation to help you recognize what the coverage is. We use this whenever we feel the team is doing a lot of banjo-ing or combination coverages to our strong side. We’ll have our quarterback come to the weak side to read the wheelbacker.

Lets go over those indicators in a little more detail. The first indicator for us is what we call force. The backer is low, on the line of scrimmage. We expect him to be a fast run support player. That probably indicates to us that it’s some kind of man coverage behind or it could be possibly cover 3 with the defense just choosing to void the flat. Again, when you’ve got a force for a wheelbacker, you need to tie in either a corner read or a free safety read.

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The second is an adjusted backer set. I always say to our coaching staff and our quarterbacks and receivers, we’d better understand when they get in adjusted, if they doing that kind of stunt right there. If they are, then that adjusted set is a true indicator of some kind of man coverage and they are trying to put their backer in a position to blitz.

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Sometimes a defense will just drop the backer from there; he’s off the line of scrimmage, a little bit better angle for him to get to the flat. So by film study and scouting report, you need to know how often that wheelbacker blitzes out of that adjusted formation.

The next, and again, probably the easiest one to read, is what we call the walkway position. That walkaway position, to us, is a true invert position and a true indicator of cover 3. Which means the will backer, just like the strong safety being on our other invert, has a curl flat read. He’s got the curl flat on the split side of the formation and that is a true indicator to us that he indeed is going to be in cover 3.

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