Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Sep 2013

How Cover-2 Became An Endangered Species

Over at MMQB, Andy Benoit breaks down why Cover-2 is increasingly being replaced by Cover-1 and Robber concepts.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 26 Sep 2013

9 comments, Last at 27 Sep 2013, 7:20pm by LionInAZ


by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 2:23pm

Really good article.

by theslothook :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 2:29pm

This was an excellent article all around. Well done ANdy

by RoninX (not verified) :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 2:56pm

Great piece.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 4:16pm

I think I have to disagree with Andy on the causes of the Bears playing less cover 2.

When the Bears were running it at their best (2005-6), it wasn't anything new. Tampa Bay had been running it for like a decade, the Colts had been running it for a while. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where the holes in the zone are.

I don't think there are serious schematic differences between now and 2006. What I do think has changed is the availability of players suited to cover 2 systems. The scheme worked so well because it changed the traditional emphasis you had on players. Before the cover 2 was popularized, I'm under the impression that the base defense most teams ran was a 2 gap system with man coverage. You had to have good corners, and good edge rushers. In the Tampa 2, it decreases the need for talented cornerbacks, but increases the need for talented safeties. It decreases the reliance on an edge rush, but increases the need for all your d-linemen to rush the passer and for linebackers who both fill gaps and drop back into coverage.

The success of the Tampa-2 teams, lead NFL evaluators to find ways to to fit the players Tampa-2 teams were going after into their schemes. Everyone wants 2 rangy safeties, defensive tackles who can shoot through the offensive line and Brian Urlacher as their MLB.

This has left the Bears in a situation where their defensive line is nothing special. Thus they don't get pressure enough. Thus they have to blitz.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 8:07pm

I could certainly see the fact that Cover-2 no longer represents a market efficiency playing a part in the decline discussed. But that doesn't mean that there aren't also tactical reason for its decline as well. To spin a bit of hyperbole: just because running backs have (for the most part) become and acknowledged fungible commodity that hasn't spurred a return to the wishbone.

by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Fri, 09/27/2013 - 2:35am

I think the rules against targeting has changed the vulnerability of the seam route as well. It was always available in a cover 2 but always came with a risk of a major collision. How many passes did John Lynch break up with hits that would result in flags and fines today?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/27/2013 - 11:18am

Every one.

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 09/27/2013 - 7:20pm

He was constantly getting flagged for late hits even then.

by bleeding heart (not verified) :: Fri, 09/27/2013 - 9:37am

I think Derrick Brooks made the scheme so successful. Without him I'm not so sure the classic Tampa Cover-2 would have worked at all.
Tampa had the PERSONNEL to make this a successful scheme. This won't work without a Derrick Brooks & a Warren Sapp & a John Lynch...