Cover 1 is a simple coverage in concept, but in application there are so many variables that have to be accounted for. Think of your offense for a second... how many eligible receivers are there going to be on a given play? If you release the maximum allowed by rule, that would be 5. Now if we look at the defense, a standard 4-3, we have 4 DL rushing the passer, and 7 in coverage. Because Cover 1 is a man-to-man defense, put 5 defenders on the 5 potential receivers. That leaves us with 2 remaining defenders. Remember, it is Cover 1, so there must be someone deep, typically the FS. And that brings us to 1, one defender remaining.
Now this is where it get tricky. This one extra defender is going to have flexibility based on the call, to do many things. This one extra defender role can also be assumed by different positional players based on the call.
The traditional "Cover 1 Free" - The word "FREE" in this case actually refers to the extra defender being a free rusher. If that defender is a LB, he is going to dog, if that extra defender is a secondary player, he is going to blitz. This gives the defense 5 active pass rushers and can cause problems if not addressed. Traditionally, Defensive Coordinators will dictate the player and gap that the free rusher will occupy, because don't forget, the defenses #1 job is to stop the run, and to do that they must have sound gap control.
So the extra word tagged on to the end of "Cover 1 ___" is telling the defense what the extra defender is doing.
Looking at the QB Challenge defenses above, starting in the upper left, we have Cover 1 Weak. Weak is for the Safety rotation into coverage, the 3 LBs now know they will be combo-ing the 2 remaining eligible receivers.
The top right is Cover 1 Hole. Typically a defense would run this against single back teams, this gives the LBs leverage based on the potential release of the back. If the back releases strong, the MLB would be in man coverage and the WLB would be occupying the "Hole" zone, which is 8-15yds over the center with eyes on the QB. If the back releases weak, the roles by the MLB and WLB would switch.
The bottom left is called Cover 1 Robber. Robber starts with an R and refers to the Rover being the extra defender, assigned to roam the deep hole zone. Beware, there are many INTs against Robber because all you see as a QB is your WR beating his man defender over the middle and the Rover drives into the passing lane. This is why it is critical to know your defenses, don't get robbed!
The bottom right is a the same as Robber but reverses the roles of the safties, therefore it is appropriately named Cover 1 Thief. Notice the F in there, cleaver huh?
Until next time...
-Coach Nate Longshore
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