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The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

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The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby Kilroy » Wed Sep 05, 2007 5:23 am

From nfl.com:

Trends in the game: Is the Tampa 2 getting fazed out?
Pat Kirwan

Each week I will discuss a trend in the game that looks to be evolving from my discussions with coaches and players, video tape study and observation. Let's start off the 2007 season with the famous "Tampa 2" coverage that has been the rage of NFL defenses for the past few years.

As the Tony Dungy coaching tree expanded so did the number of teams using the Tampa 2 as the foundation of their defense. There are Dungy disciples in Kansas City (Herm Edwards), Detroit (Rod Marinelli), Pittsburgh (Mike Tomlin), and, of course, Chicago (Lovie Smith).

It was Super Bowl XLI, when Dungy went up against his own defensive scheme in the Bears, that caused me to investigate the Tampa 2 scheme. As a background note, the Tampa 2 tries and plays the run game with seven defenders in the box instead of the traditional 8 in the box. It also asks the middle linebacker when he reads pass to take a deep drop down the middle of the field to free-safety depth. No one in the league could achieve the depth required quite like the Bears' Brian Urlacher. A former safety in college with rare size made him the perfect candidate to run the scheme originally developed by Dungy and Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. But Dungy wanted to win a Super Bowl with his Colts, and that meant attacking his own defensive scheme.

Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images
Against the Bears, the Colts used the draw play to attack the Tampa 2.

» Super Bowl XLI

The Colts were challenged to attack the No. 5 defense in the NFL and the No. 1 defense in average gain per pass play. What Dungy did exposed the Tampa 2 coverage being used by more than half the teams in the NFL. He triggered that deep pass drop with a pass key. As Urlacher dropped with great speed while reading his pass key, the Colts ran a draw play vs. six in the box and the end result was a Colts offense that gained 191 rushing yards in 42 carries and another 74 yards throwing the check-down route to the backs, which essentially is a delayed draw.

No one thought the quick-strike Colts would hold the ball for more than 38 minutes in the Super Bowl, but they did. Since then every coach has gone over that game tape looking for the ways to break down Tampa 2 coverages around the league. I asked one coach if he is worried about not having Peyton Manning to carry out the plan. "Most teams," he replied, "don't have a middle linebacker like Urlacher running the scheme."

A number of defensive coaches told me they will not be running the pure Tampa 2 as much as they have in the past. Instead, they will be blending in a lot more safety-down-in-the-box looks and man schemes to change the look of the Tampa 2. As one defensive coach said, "The quarterbacks in this league are getting too many looks at the Tampa 2 coverage and they know what to do with the ball. We have to change it up more than ever."

Besides what the Colts were able to do, there are a number of teams running an over/under principle on the Tampa 2 coverage: Drive a seam route down the middle -- usually by a tight end -- and trigger the deep drop by the Mike, or strongside middle linebacker, and then run a 12-yard dig route by a wide receiver under the tight end and in front of the Mike. The big stretch by the deep route can produce a nice hole in the middle of the field.

Finally, I remember how many assistant coaches got head coaching positions by claiming to be disciples of the Bill Walsh West Coast offense and over time it was hard to recognize all the different variations of the West Coast offense. Jon Gruden's version is different than Mike Holmgren's. Brad Childress doesn't run the same version that he ran with the Eagles.

So, the Tampa 2 scheme is getting ready for a big change in the NFL this season. One team that regularly gets described as a "Tampa 2" team hardly ever plays the coverage anymore. After I watch some of the late-season game tapes from 2006, I asked the coach what happened to his famous coverage. "Can't play it anymore," he said. "It lost its competitive edge from overuse."

Sounds to me like the Tampa 2 is being phased out around the league as a core defense.


Never mind that it's as much Monte Kiffin's Defense as Dungy's.

It's like any other defensive scheme, (Cover-2, 4-3, 3-4, the "46", Zone Blitz, or the newest rage...the "Hybrid".) You either have the personnel to run it or you don't. The real problem lies with coaches trying to pound square pegs into round holes.

H**l, you'll likely see the same thing continue as Tomlin eventually phases out the 3-4 ZB in Pittsburgh in favor of "his" 4-3. Never mind that Lebeau invented that defense and that every other team that runs it should be cutting him a Beli-check.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby Jimboozie » Wed Sep 05, 2007 7:45 am

The Bears cover 2 is easy to beat. All you need is a great offensive line, a hall of fame QB, two pro bowl WRs, and a talented RBBC.

In other words, the Colts. :-b

On another note, I think teams are going to use this formation a lot against LJ and the Chiefs: 11-0-0. :-D
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby Flyn high again » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:24 am

Guess the Bears will have to switch back to the 46 Defense if they play the Colts again.

Obviously, the Cover two is still working for them since they made it to the Superbowl and were/are one of the top DEF in the league. I don't think any defense has much of a chance against Peyton Manning. Not to mention the fact that they were trying to use the Cover two against the guy who designed it and knows its weaknesses.

New Defenses come along every couple years. Some work, some don't. Cover two worked great when it first came around but like any scheme, there are ways to beat it that will be found by other teams.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby moochman » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:33 am

The surest sign that the cover 2 or Tampa 2 is done is that the Lions have embraced it. Never a front runner, the Lions were know for trying a run and shoot just after Ds figured out the dead QBs can't pass, went to the west coast offence just after Ds learned that any decent prevent D will stop it, and not they turn their addled minds to the Tampa 2.

The Bears run it and it's a great D....as long as you have great defenders. The Bears could run a lot of schemes and their talent and coaching could make it work. That's the bottom line with any schemes: you have to have the talent that can execute the schemes. Watch the Lions experiment this season. Their coaching staff came out and said you don't need CBs in their D, the D line will pressure the QB too much to need downfield coverage. So they say thet bolstered their D line to put pressure on the QB. We'll see.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby petedog9 » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:55 am

I personally don't think Tomlin will phase out teh 3-4 in Pitt for the Cover 2 4-3 style... Not with those linebackers.... They have the talent to switch between the two schemes so offenses dont know whats coming at them. They are doing some crazy things this year and are giving some new looks and disguises to that D... They have packages where only 1 man has his hand on the ground with 10 other defenders upright and milling around pre-snap. Is is a 3-4 ? 4-3? who knows....Dick Does....... ;-D
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby knapplc » Wed Sep 05, 2007 1:33 pm

The Colts simply played a very good game. If they play their best there isn't a defensive scheme in the land that can completely shut that offense down.

Calling the Cover-2 "dead" based largely on one game is pretty silly.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby dgan » Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:54 pm

Kilroy1872 wrote:From nfl.com:

Trends in the game: Is the Tampa 2 getting fazed out?
Pat Kirwan


I believe the term he was looking for is "phased". Dude is a professional writer...he should know his homonyms.

Now, what was the article about? Oh yeah. The problem with the Cover 2 is that it is more predictable and the 'aggressive' defenses. So you need superior talent at every position to essentially beat everyone 1-on-1. If you don't have that, you're probably going to be beat handily like the Colts D has been since Dungy got there.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby maddog60 » Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:28 pm

The league is always adapting. Honestly, if the cover-2 remains even semi-dominant for another season, I'll be impressed. Coaches always have to be evolving with the game to keep their schemes ahead of their opponents game-planning. Just the way it is.

Oh, and JimBoozie, I think you're wrong about beating the Bears cover-2. There's two key ingredients:

1) Let Rex Grossman play the whole game
2) Don't let Denny Green coach your team

;-)
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby steelerfan513 » Wed Sep 05, 2007 7:05 pm

Kilroy1872 wrote:H**l, you'll likely see the same thing continue as Tomlin eventually phases out the 3-4 ZB in Pittsburgh in favor of "his" 4-3. Never mind that Lebeau invented that defense and that every other team that runs it should be cutting him a Beli-check.


Lebeau will turn 70 years old the day the Steelers start the season, so you can't assume that he will be around forever.
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Re: The (apparent) demise of the Cover-2

Postby bagobonez » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:16 pm

He's saying the "tampa 2" is dead, yet both SUper Bowl participants last year used it. How "dead" can it be if it's still working that well?
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