Playbook: Playing the 'inside vertical seam' in Cover 2

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

I often talk about the techniques of Cover 2 (or Tampa 2) here at the NFP. A 2-deep shell with the Mike Backer (MLB) running the “inside vertical seam” to essentially create a 3-deep, 4-under zone vs. vertical concepts.

Today, I want to focus on the Mike Backer position using video from the 2011 Cowboys-Redskins Monday night matchup. Let's breakdown Sean Lee’s INT off of Rex Grossman.

Redskins vs. Cowboys
Offensive Personnel: Heavy (1WR-3TE-1RB)
Formation: Empty
Route: “Pump-Seam”
Defensive Scheme: Cover 2

“Waste” Motion: When the offense creates an empty alignment via RB motion, this is called “waste" motion. He is not a primary target and is often aligned outside of the numbers to widen the defense. Same situation we are looking at in the replay vs. Cover 2. Move the RB, force the safety to widen (play over the top of No.1) and target the inside seam route.

“Check” vs. empty alignment: Not surprised to see the Cowboys check to Cover 2 (“Omaha” call). That is the standard check in the NFL vs. an aligned (or motion) empty formation. The other option? Check to Cover 0 (“Chop” call) and send the house.

“Pump-Seam” route: One of the top concepts you will see on Sundays from multiple personnel groupings and alignments. Redskins QB Rex Grossman will pump to the closed (strong) side of the formation and come back to the seam route. Working against a single-high safety defense (Cover 1, Cover 3), you are trying to move the FS. Here, vs. Cover 2, the idea is to force the Mike to stay open to the “pump” and throw the seam behind him (splitting the 2-deep safeties).

Mike Backer technique: Clinic tape from Lee vs. TE Fred Davis on the seam route. Lee opens his hips to the passing strength (3 receiver side in this situation), reads the QB through the "pump" and takes an angle that allows him to carry/defend No.2. What stands out is the technique Lee uses. This is called an “open angle technique” (open hips to the QB). The same drill you will see LBs working on throughout the offseason and during individual period once training camp opens.

We are looking at one example (on a ball that was forced by Grossman). However, this is the footwork and technique you want to get from the Mike Backer position in Cover 2.

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