By Steve Specht

Today we are going to talk about identifying a key receiver and how you can isolate to take that receiver out of the game.

At Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier High School, we see a lot of spread offenses. Every time we see spread, we’re going to see that isolated receiver somewhere on the field, creating mismatches and problems for you.

It’s usually the 6’4 “cat”, the dude that can hurt you. You want to double team him and you ultimately want to take him out of the game. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

We are an odd-stack defense. We run a 3-3-5, but I think this coverage philosophy works no matter what type of defense you are currently running. The coverage principles all remain intact.

We are going to identify this key receiver in one of two ways as either the “snake” or the “mouse.”

Anytime the key receiver lines up as the No. 1 receiver, we identify him as the “snake.” We want to double team him with bump, inside leverage and man coverage with the corner.

Now we are going to roll the safety over the top of the No. 1 receiver.

I think you have to determine whether you are a true zone team or a pattern match team. So, as I talk about our underneath coverage, you can adapt it to being a true zone team or a pattern match team.

I’m going to go ahead and talk about how we pattern match this.

INSTALL

We have identified the “snake.” That corner is going to play bump-and-run technique from inside leverage, and he is going to stay underneath of the receiver.

The weak safety is now going to work over the top of the “snake.”

Our coverage principles are going to remain the same across the board.

Our corner to the trips side is going to play a bump-man, or loose-man, on the No. 1 receiver. Our strong safety is going to play our seam and pattern match No. 2 to No. 3.

One of our inside linebackers is going to drop to what we call the “hole” and is going to pattern read No. 3 to No. 2.

We have a backside linebacker that is going to work backside to the seam. He is going to pattern match No. 2 to No. 3. If he has no immediate threat from No. 2, he is going to try to stay inside out on the No. 1 receiver.

If a team wants to isolate their best receiver backside, we can essentially have three defenders taking that receiver away.

When the offense puts their best receiver as No. 1 to the trips side, this is how we will play it.

We now have a strong rotation. To the trips side, we are going to take our corner and play him with the same technique that he would play if the “snake” was No. 1 weak.

The corner is going to play bump-and-run technique from inside leverage, and he is going to stay underneath the receiver.

He is going to get help from the middle safety over the top while the weak safety that was backside helping is now going to rotate to the middle of the field.

The corner backside of the trips is going to play either bump-man or loose-man coverage.

The strong safety and a linebacker are still pattern reading the No. 2 and 3 receivers.

In any case, we are getting inside and underneath coverage on the “snake” receiver with a safety rolled over the top. We may not get three defenders on the “snake” but we are getting at least two defenders on him.

That is our “snake” concept to defend a dominant receiver.

Now we are going to talk about when we play our “mouse” defense.

When the offense moves that star-studded receiver inside to No. 2 or 3 in trips, we will play “mouse.”

If we called “snake” and he aligned inside as the No. 2 or 3, then we are going to automatically check “mouse.”

In “mouse” we are not going to move a corner inside to cover the star receiver. The nearest safety will rotate down and play bump-and-run technique from inside leverage, staying underneath of the receiver.

The corner to the trips over the No. 1 receiver is going to play bump-man, or loose-man, on the No. 1 receiver.

The corner to the weak side of the defense is going to do the same over the No. 1 receiver. He is going to play bump-man, or loose-man.

The middle of the field safety is now going to rotate towards the threat. We always roll coverage towards the star receiver.

The middle of the field safety is going to play the seam where he is pattern reading the No. 2 receiver to the No. 3 receiver.

We will have a linebacker that will work to the “hole” and pattern read the No. 3 receiver to the No. 2 receiver.

The backside linebacker is going to work the backside seam.

We are going to have our weak safety rotating to the threat so now he is playing the middle third of the field.

The coaching point for the secondary is simple: rotate towards the threat.

The strong safety is going to have help from the middle of the field safety. If the star receiver goes to the flat, the seam defender is going to jump him as well.

If he goes across the field, then the “hole” defender is going to jump him and help double him. The purpose of the coverage is to eliminate the threat as much as we possibly can.

Front

We are either going to run a three-man pattern, spy the quarterback or we can run a four-man pattern up front.

Maybe we want to run a “X” stunt. That’s a four-man pattern.

Maybe we run what we call “Sic’ em” where we let the ends rush the B-gaps and we spy the quarterback with a linebacker. That’s a three-man pattern with a spy.

There are times when maybe that star receiver is really good and we want two immediate defenders shadowing him. We will take an inside linebacker and play him over the star receiver immediately with the safety, then have the other linebacker play the “hole.”

Key components

Whoever is playing man coverage on the star receiver, whether it is “snake” or “mouse” has to maintain inside leverage and stay underneath the receiver.

The safety that is playing over the top of the receiver has to stay outside and over the top.

 

About the author

Dan Guttenplan