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Breaking down Rodgers vs. the Giants 2-Man

Using video to break down the 'Middle Read' route scheme. Matt Bowen

Print This May 06, 2011, 05:30 AM EST

Click here to read the entire Inside the Playbook series.

I often talk about 2-Man coverage in my posts here at the NFP. Today, let’s use an example from the Packers-Giants game in 2010 to highlight the coverage as well as a specific route scheme designed to beat it.

In 2-Man, think of a Cover 2—or Tampa 2—shell. Two deep safeties with five underneath defenders in the Nickel (or Dime) sub-package playing inside trail-man. To beat it, target the middle of the field and split the safeties, just as Aaron Rodgers does in Green Bay’s “Middle Read” route scheme for a TD. Let’s check it out and then get into some detailed coaching points.

Coaching Points:

1. Trail-man: I used to love playing 2-Man during my career because it gave you an opportunity as a safety to break downhill with some protection from the underneath defenders. But the middle of the field can be a nightmare. You have to play with proper depth and drive at an angle that will put you in a position to either make a play on the ball or deliver a knock out hit. Not here, because once the CB is beat, along with the Giants safeties widening due to the outside release of X and Z, no one is going to make this play. Run the inside vertical seam (after winning at the line of scrimmage in the slot) and this is almost unstoppable with a good throw.

Aaron RodgersICONRodgers is able to target the middle of the field vs. New York's 2-Man coverage.

2. Eyes in the backfield: Go back to the replay and check out the Giants’ Nickel CB aligned over Nelson. I had a conversation yesterday with Aaron Nagler of CheeseheadTV.com about this exact subject. First and 10 situation, expect the defensive players to be over-aggressive in their run-pass reads. No different here as the CB looks in the backfield at the mesh-point on the inside run action and immediately loses leverage on Nelson. Bottom line, he is beat at the snap all because of his eye placement. Take care of your job first, and in this case, that means playing trail-man on Nelson.

3. “Middle Read” scheme: This route scheme is run throughout the league because it will convert vs. different coverages. With an outside release by the No.1 WRs (X, Z), they will run the 9 (fade) vs. a three-deep look (think Cover 1, Cover 3).  However, once they read a 2-deep shell on the release, both WRs will break their routes to run the deep comeback (or deep curl, deep out depending on the offensive scheme).  That leaves Nelson to basically work in an one-on-one matchup on the seam route down the middle of the field that is ideal vs. two deep safeties.

4. Rodgers: This is a big time throw. Green Bay uses 6-man protection with the RB, Brandon Jackson, on the check-release. The ball has to be delivered on time, thrown over the top of the underneath CB in the trail position and between the hash marks. Often times these passes look routine for Rodgers, but in this situation the ball has to be thrown to the up field shoulder of the WR to prevent either the FS or the SS from coming back to the middle of the field to make a play.

Playing 2-Man is a great call in certain situations and we see it from the defenses of the Ravens, Steelers and even the Packers. However, when defensive backs play in a trail position their technique has to allow them the opportunity to play any inside breaking route scheme. Here, we saw the Packers exploit the coverage by taking the safeties out of the play with outside releases from the Z and X receiver while exploiting the middle of the field. Textbook.

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