Football is littered with specialized terminology. From climbing the pocket to personal protector, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.
Related: Check out the primer on reading defensive coverages.
Cover 1 or “man-free” is a man-to-man defensive scheme with one free safety in a deep zone in the middle of the field. The cornerbacks and underneath defenders play man coverage. With only one deep safety, the defense has an extra unassigned man. That player – usually a linebacker or strong safety – can provide run support, blitz the quarterback, bracket, or double-team a dangerous middle-of-the-field receiver, spy on a running QB, or play a robber role by lurking in an underneath zone.
Cover 1 defenses tend to be aggressive, with just one deep defender. They can be vulnerable to big plays if the free safety lacks range or if the cornerbacks and linebackers cannot provide tight man coverage.
Bradley Fletcher (#24) lines up against Jordy Nelson (#87) in press man technique. He fails to get a good jam at the snap, and Nelson bursts past him to the outside, away from safety help.
Offenses often attack Cover 1 with fade routes, as the free safety has a long way to go to get to the sideline and provide coverage. Cornerbacks need to be able to defend this route or teams employing Cover 1 will be exposed.
Even for teams that play a lot of zone, Cover 1 is a common third-down defense, as the reward (forcing a punt with a stop) outweighs the risk (giving up a big play). Cover 1 is typically paired with press man coverage on the outside in a concerted effort to stop the short passing game.
Florida State’s P.J. Williams (#26) lines up in press on Louisville’s DeVante Parker (#9), who runs a quick slant. Williams sticks with the route and dives perfectly to break up the pass.
Dave Archibald contributed to this entry;you can find his primer on identifying pass defensese here.
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