Breaking Down Quarters Coverage

By Clayton Cason


Man coverage is exactly as it sounds. Each defender has a designated man across the entire field. Vision is on the man the defender is covering, typically in his hip pocket.

Example – The Corner has the most outside receiver no matter where he goes (“cat” coverage as it is known).


The field is separated into areas, where each player has designated area to defend. He will do this while visioning and breaking on the QB.

Example- I have the curl/flat zone. I drop to where the landmark for curl/flat is. When the QB “pulls the pin” on the throw, I break on the ball.

Zone Match 

Like zone, the defenders are dropping to an area while visioning the QB top-down, however, if a player enters the defender’s zone, he will take him man-to-man. Zone match is played by rallying to throws short of zones. Defenders have a “no cover zone” in the flats where they will not take a player man-to-man until the ball is thrown.

Example- Will LB dropping to his hook zone and No. 3 runs up through it. The Will now man’s up No. 3.

Man Match 

Man Match is defenders having a particular man assignment until that player does something that triggers me to become man-to-man with another receiver

Example – Corner has No. 1 man vertically. If No. 1 does anything else, I will man up a different player.

What are the Differences in Zone Match and Man Match?

There are a few distinctions between the two, even though at times one can look like the other. To understand, ask a few questions:

  • What do the drops look like? If they are dropping to an area before running to man a receiver, then it’s a Zone Match principle.
  • What is the discipline and location of the cover defenders’ eyes? If the defenders are looking toward their man, it is typically a Man Match. If the defenders are dropping with eyes on the QB, it is a Zone Match.
  • Are defenders allowing receivers to cross the field and passing them off? If so, this means they are using a zone match concept.
  • How aggressive are the cover defenders? Defenders are in the hip pocket of receivers in Man Matches, while they cover with a top-down approach in Zone Matches.

What is Cover 7?

Cover 7 is part of the Man-Match Quarters coverage family. It is a two-high split field coverage concept where defenders distribute routes tightly, running with receivers, even across the field in their hip pocket.

Why Cover 7?

Cover 7 allows defenses to have tight coverage on intermediate and vertical routes by bracketing slot receivers and squeezing the “lanes” in the coverage. This Man Match version of Quarters is best used in situations when allowing players to catch short throws and rallying to them won’t work because they are too skilled and can outrun your defenders if given the head start.

Often, the spacing of modern spread offensive sets force defenses out of zone coverages. However, playing straight man-to-man is not always a viable option when evaluating player talent against the opponent. Man-Match Quarters give the defense the leverage and coverage options to defend offenses.

What is Cover 7 vulnerable to?

Tight splits where the offense uses many shallow crosses and meshers. Better off using Zone Match schemes against those teams and rally on short throws.

Key Definitions/Terms


Underneath WR, have No. 2 or No. 3 man-to-man if he goes up or in. If he goes out, they will man No. 1 with a particular technique.


I will push my man by one receiver over. This is mainly used by the backer when No. 3 pushes into the flat, where the Apex will push to the old No. 3 and the backer will push and play man-to-man against the new No. 3.

First to Flat (F2F)

First WR to flat will be manned by the Apex. The “F2F” player is expecting to man No. 2 until he gets a “Push” call. If No. 2 goes in/out and there is no fast No. 3, he will take two back across field.

Fast 3

The back in the backfield runs directly into the flat area and out of the box at the snap of the ball.


As mentioned, Cover 7 is a split-field cover concept that is flank dependent. This means that they will make the coverage call depending on how many receivers there are to that particular side.