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I’ve been asked recently on playing Cover 0 (or blitz-man) in the secondary vs. the 3-step passing game. Today, let’s go back to Raiders-Texans from the 2011 season and breakdown Darrius Heyward-Bey’s TD catch vs. Houston’s 8-Man pressure. A good opportunity to talk scheme and DB technique.

Raiders vs. Texans
Personnel: Houston (3WR-2RB)
Route: Hitch (“Hot Read”)
Defensive scheme: Cover 0

“Hot” Read: The majority of NFL offenses have “hot reads” (3-step routes vs. pressure) built into the game plan. Read blitz at the line of scrimmage and convert the routes on the outside to 3-step concepts: Slant, Hitch, Fade. Here, Raiders’ QB Jason Campbell reads pressure and throws the base Hitch route (vs. off-man coverage) to WR Darrius Hewyard-Bey.

8-Man pressure: Think of a 6-Man double safety blitz (“B” gap read) with two extra defenders that will “Green Dog” (add to the blitz front) when their coverage stays in on protection. That 6-Man scheme (called in the huddle) now turns into an 8-Man pressure with the Raiders keeping both RBs in the protection scheme.

Ball has to come out: As a DB, expect the ball to come out. With “Houston” personnel on the field, the Raiders have seven to block eight. Align at a depth of 7-8 yards with an inside shade (Cover 0 technique), play with a flat-foot read (3-step technique) and drive on the throw. If the ball is thrown to the outside, that’s on the defense. Take away the inside and prep for a quick route.

CB Technique: No need to shuffle or backpedal here, because the WR doesn’t have enough time to break your cushion (distance between WR and DB) due to the blitz. Texans' CB Jason Allen gets himself in trouble because he gives ground and opens his hips. No need to move. Instead, stay square, trust what you see and break at an angle that aims at the upfield shoulder of the WR. Becaue of the poor technique, Allen isn’t in a position to make the tackle and allows Heyward-Bey to turn a 5-yard gain into a TD.

Is this the right defensive call?

I like the call to play blitz-man and to put Allen in an off-man position vs. DHB. The problem with playing Cover 0 is the technique has to be right. You miss a tackle with no safety help and it always leads to an explosive play. Risk vs. reward anytime a man-coverage blitz scheme is called in the huddle.

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