Breaking down the top Cover 4 beater

Click here to read the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Click here to see my breakdown of Offensive Formation Alignments.

How do you beat Cover 4 (quarters)? Run the “Pin” route and set some bait for the SS to the closed side of the formation. A curl-post combo designed to get a deep inside breaking route vs. a CB playing with outside leverage.

Let’s take a look at the concept up on the chalkboard and breakdown some coaching points.

Personnel: Ace (2 WR-2 TE-1 RB)
Formation: Spread
Route scheme: Pin


Route breakdown: With Ace personnel on the field, I have the No.1 WR to the closed (strong) side of the formation (Z) running the deep post with the TE (Y) on the 8-10 yard inside curl. To the open (weak) side, the second TE in the game (U) works the option route with the X running the 15-yard dig (square-in). A weak side Hi-Lo read for the QB. Where do you see the "Pin" show up in the NFL? Check out the Patriots playbook when they cross the 20-yard line.

Setting the bait: A base Cover 4 rule for the SS: play No.2 vertical (Y in this situation) when the receiver presses up the field past a depth of 12-yards. With the TE breaking his route between 8-10yards, the SS is coached to look to No.1 (Z) and run underneath the post (giving inside help to the CB). However, after playing in this scheme during my career, it is tough to lay off the curl route breaking right in front of you.

Occupying the FS: If the SS jumps the curl, you still want to occupy the FS so he can’t help on the post. By running the dig route (X), the FS will sit to the open side (drive downhill on the break). Always account for help from the weak side of the defense on any deep concept.

CB in trouble: When we talk about "quarters," think man-coverage technique vs. vertical concepts. The clsoed side CB will play from an off-position (outside shade), pedal and turn once the WR gets on his cushion (distance between DB and WR). But with no safety help (because of the inside curl route), this is trouble. Not easy to play the post when you are in a trail position vs. a route breaking back to the middle of the field.

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