Coaching up 'Cover 0'

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Let’s talk Cover 0 (blitz-man with no safety help) and focus on technique in both an off-man and press alignment. A guide to becoming a more productive football player when zero-pressure is called in the huddle and the DBs are left out on an island.

Here are my notes…


Darrelle RevisICONTechnique is the key to playing Cover 0 in the NFL for DBs such as Darrelle Revis.

Alignment: Depends on the situation (and game plan), but I’m looking to play my DBs in an off-man position on 3rd and 7-plus when I am sending blitz-pressure. Align a depth of 8-yards with an inside shade (take away inside breaking routes) and drive downhill.

Routes: Think the 3-step game. Offenses will not run the fade vs. a DB in an off-man alignment (if they do, it should be a pick). Look for the 3-step (or even 1-step) slant and hitch.

“Flat-foot” read: Tell your DBs to put their feet in cement and read through the 3-step release (slant, hitch). Don’t backpedal, open your hips or give ground. This is how you get beat when playing Cover 0. Believe what you see.

Cushion: This is the distance between the DB and the WR. If the blitz doesn’t get home, you want to see the DB keep that original cushion (after clearing the 3-step), weave with the WR stem and only open their hips (to turn and run) when they are threatened vertically. DBs are at their best when their shoulder are square and they are comfortable in their pedal.

Use the sideline: Get beat on the quick out route? That’s on the defense. You are coached up to take away any inside stem in Cover 0. However, if they throw the out, use the sideline as your help when making the tackle. Pin the ball carrier to the boundary, take an angle that doesn’t allow the receiver to cut back and finish the play. Worst things can happen.

Tackle: Have to tackle in Cover 0 when playing in an off-man alignment. Remember, there is no safety help in the middle of the field and a missed tackle will lead to an explosive gain—and most likely a TD.


Inside shade: No different than playing from an off-man position, DBs should align with an inside shade—forcing the WR to go through them on the release to run the 3-step slant.

Use your hands: Be physical on the release and remember to use the opposite hand. For an inside release, punch with your outside hand. For an outside release, punch with your inside hand. And always bring your feet on contact.

"Mirror" drill: DBs will do a “mirror” drill through the offseason and during camp for this purpose. I can talk about being physical and using your hands all day long, but it doesn’t add up if you don’t bring your feet. Slide your feet on the punch, stay square and “mirror” the WR on the initial step.

Don’t “open the gate” on the release: If you see a DB open his hips on the release, he is beat. That’s it. Sure, some of the top CBs in the game can recover, but this is a poor technique that needs to be corrected. Open your hips and you are allowing a free release and immediately falling into a “trail position.” Not good.

Prep for the fade: Its coming when you are aligned in a press-look. Your initial stance will help on take away the slant, but you have to play the fade on an outside release. Drive to the hip, find the ball and play up through the hands of the WR.

Bottom line for both off-man and press in Cover 0: Trust your technique. There is no guarantee the blitz will get home. And when that happens it is on the secondary to make a play.

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