Breaking Down Cover 0
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Redskins defensive coordinator has an aggressive approach to playing defense; blitz heavy and blitz often. Last year he was restricted somewhat after losing star pass rusher Brian Orakpo for the majority of the season, but with Orakpo back, look for Haslett to get back to what he loves doing: blitzing.
One of Haslett’s favorite blitzes is “Cover 0”. Cover 0 is an all out blitz that challenges the quarterback to get a pass away before he gets sacked. The goal is to send one more blitzer than the offense can block.
There are a few key points to running Cover 0:
There is no safety help behind you. Cover 0 is pure man to man coverage. Every possible receiver (including tight ends, running backs and fullbacks) is assigned a man. If that receiver runs a route, then his man must cover him. If he stays in to block, then his defender must blitz.
Defensive backs are in off-man coverage. Rather than being lined up on the line of scrimmage, they give themselves a cushion of about eight yards between them and their receiver.
Defenders in coverage must not allow a receiver to run an in-breaking route. With no safety help, the middle of the field is wide open. You have to force the receiver to the outside where you can use the sideline as help.
Blitzers need to attack separate gaps along the offensive line. For example, if two blitzers attack the “A Gap” between the center and the left guard, its easier for the center to block. But if the two blitzers attack the A gap either side of the center, then he can only block one.
The Redskins ran the Cover 0 defense successfully against the Ravens last season.
The Ravens are in a third and long situation, so elect to spread out their offense with five receivers. The Redskins check into their Cover 0 look, with five clear man to man match ups.
That allows the Redskins to send one more blitzer than the offensive line can block. They have six defenders lined up on the line of scrimmage against five offensive linemen.
The defensive backs know they have no safety help in the middle of the field, so they all take an inside shade (where they set themselves on the inside shoulder of the receiver, letting him know they aren’t going to allow them to the middle of the field) on their receivers. The blitzers also do a good job of attacking separate gaps along the offensive line, making it impossible to block all six blitzers.
That allows Ryan Kerrigan a free run at quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco attempts to scramble and buy himself time, before making an ill-advised throw that gets deflected and intercepted.
That’s the kind of pressure Cover 0 can put on an offense. Problems can arise if you use it too often. A few years ago, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo saw the blitz coming and rolled out to delay the blitz. That gave receiver Dez Bryant enough time to beat DeAngelo Hall and get open. But if you don’t overuse it, or mix in some zone coverages from Cover 0 looks, it can be extremely effective on third downs.