ITP Glossary: Cover 0

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From onside kick to veteran minimum benefit, 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 0

Cover 0 is a coverage scheme with zero deep defenders. This is an entirely man-to-man coverage shell that involves a heavy pass rush normally six or more defenders. Accordingly, Cover 0 is also called a “zero blitz.” The goal is for pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the timing and progressions of the passing game, resulting in a sack or an errant throw.


Here the Bengals send eight rushers ‒ four defensive linemen and four blitzers ‒ at the Titans, forcing Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker to make an early, inaccurate throw on a wheel route to the left side:

Teams often use Cover 0 in goal line situations, where there is no deep field to defend. It is rare in other situations, as the risk of giving up a big play is great with no safeties deep:


On 3rd and 10 on their own 20-yard line, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (#11) lines up in a stack on the offensive right with Ted Ginn Jr. (#19) just inside him. Ginn fires out while Fitzgerald runs a slant behind. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher (#24) doesn’t drive on the slant aggressively and Fitzgerald secures an easy catch.

Ginn’s route walls off safety Malcolm Jenkins (#27) and Fletcher takes a poor angle, springing Fitzgerald open to the end zone. This is the risk of Cover 0: a missed tackle resulted in an 80-yard touchdown rather than a more modest catch-and-run.

Cover 0 Diagram

Dave Archibald created this entry; you can find his primer on identifying pass defensese here.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Pass.

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