Breaking down Ryan Mallett vs. Cover 2

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Let’s talk Ryan Mallett. The former Arkansas’ QB has a legit NFL arm and what I consider first round talent when discussing the drop back passing game. Sure there are some questions about his game (mobility vs. pressure in the pocket, decision making with the football, etc.), but Mallett can test the top of any secondary.

Very similar to what I saw from Drew Bledsoe during my career when we talk arm strength. A QB that had no problem (and no fear) throwing down the field vs. a deep half safety.

Today, let’s look at a classic Cover 2 beater from the 2010 Arkansas-LSU game: the OVS (outside vertical stretch). Along with the flat-7 and 4 verticals, a route scheme that is a part of every offensive playbook—college and pro—vs. a 2-deep look. Check out the video replay and then we will break it down with some detailed coaching points that highlight the techniques of the LSU secondary and the NFL throw from Mallett.

Coaching points:

1. The OVS route scheme: The “outside vertical stretch” is a route scheme that you will see often in the NFL vs. Cover 2. A 3-level combination that consists of the 9 (fade), 7 (corner) and flat. The idea is simple vs. a 2-deep look: run the safety off with the 9, force the rolled up CB to jump the flat and throw the 7 cut into the hole now created near the sideline. It can be run out of various personnel groupings and alignments, and most often from a bunch look. In this case, Arkansas aligns in a “slot open” formation to create a 3x1 set with plenty of field to work with.

Ryan MallettICONMallett has the ability to work the sideline in the vertical game vs. Cover 2.

2. Breaking down the defense: What we want to see from LSU is the open side CB (Patrick Peterson) re-routing No.1 and sinking at a 45-degree angle to protect the FS on the 7 cut. Give up the flat route here—and rally to make the tackle—because you always protect deep to short in Cover 2. However, with a free release to the No.1 WR, Peterson jumping the flat route and the poor angle from the FS, the 9 route now comes into play.

3. Mallett’s throw: This is what you expect during the scouting process when you are grading arm strength. The two routes that are always brought up when discussing NFL talent are the deep 15-yard out and the comeback. Outside breaking routes that need to be thrown on time and with velocity vs. pro DBs. This throw? I would mark it down in my notes, because Mallett is able to fit the ball up the sideline vs. Cover 2. Even with the safety taking a poor angle from the deep halfl, I still don’t think he is able to make this play. The throw is just too solid.

4. Pre-snap looks: Very common to see a defense align in a 3-deep shell when they break the huddle. Why? It shows the QB multiple defenses: zone and man pressure, Cover 1, Cover 3, Cover 7 (combination man), etc. However, this is part of the reason the FS is beat vs. Mallett. To make a play on the 9-route from a Cover 2 landmark (top of the numbers in the NFL), you have to play with enough depth (15-18 yards) to break downhill in front of the ball. I like the idea here of showing the Arkansas’ QB that 3-deep shell with a rolled up safety, but if you can’t get back to the proper depth and get square in your backpedal, you are asking to give up the deep ball. And if the QB has the arm strength of Mallet, you don’t have a chance without playing the right technique.

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