Inside the playbook: Greg Olsen vs. Cover 2

Today: The tight end vs. Cover 2

Click here for the previous Inside the Playbook: Jennings in Super Bowl XLV

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series

There are multiple Tampa 2 beaters (click here to see them on the chalkboard), but we can’t forget about the tight end position. Let’s take a look at Vikings-Bears from the 2010 season and discuss how you can use the “shake” route to expose the Mike Backer.

The Bears align in empty (no backs) with their Posse (311) personnel on the field (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) vs. the Vikings base nickel Cover 2 alignment. What Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz wants to create is a one-on-one matchup vs. a zone defense. Isolate the Mike Backer in coverage and split the safeties on a quick double-move in the middle of the field (“shake” route). On the outside, run No.1 on the “whip-option,” with No.2 on the “wheel route.”

Clear the middle of the field and allow Bears’ TE Greg Olsen to work on Vikings’ MLB E.J. Henderson. Let’s check it out on the chalkboard.


Given the situation of the game (3rd and 14 in the red zone), Olsen is the primary read for QB Jay Cutler with WRs Johnny Knox and Devin Hester (X. Z) as the secondary reads on the whip-options.

As we can see from the chalkboard drawing, the middle of the field is open because of the Bears’ route scheme. Use the No.2 receiver to each side (W, R) on the wheel route to occupy the safeties in the deep half. Force them to react late to the middle of the field—and target Henderson.

Inside of the red zone, Cover 2 turns into “Red 2.” The CBs sink to protect the safeties on the 7 cut (corner route), which creates a 5-deep, 2-under shell with the Mike Backer running the inside vertical seam. However, in this situation, Henderson settles his feet on the double-move from Olsen and the Bears can now work vs. a 4-deep, 3-under shell and throw to the open zone in the middle of the field.

Click here to see the responsibility of the Mike Backer in Cover 2

Let’s check out the TV tape and watch the replay of Olsen on the shake route.

As we can see from the TV tape, Henderson gets into his drop, but doesn’t carry Olsen after he makes he initial cut. Both the safeties from Minnesota make clean breaks on the throw from Cutler in their deep half alignment. But in Cover 2, this isn’t their play.

Cover 2 safeties are taught to overlap the middle of the field once the ball is thrown, but it is a rarity that they will make a play on a pass down the inside vertical seam. That is the responsibility of the Mike Backer. He will open his hips to the passing strength (3 WR side) and play deep to short. React to any underneath throw, but prevent any inside vertical threat from splitting the safeties.

This is a classic Cover 2 beater from Martz and Chicago. Plus, it shows us that even vs. a zone defense, offensive coordinators can generate one-on-one matchups that they can exploit.

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