This is the first post of a 5 part series about flag football defense.
Every player on your flag football team needs to know basic defenses. If he plays defense, he must know his zone responsibilities; in man coverage, his player responsibilities. Receivers should be able to recognize zone or man coverage, and adjust their routes accordingly to be open when the QB is ready to throw. It’s also important for receivers to understand zones, and how to settle into a soft spot or slow their route down. Of course, the QB should understand defenses better than anyone else on the field. He has the responsibility of making the right reads, and delivering the ball to the open man. If he fails to do this consistently, he will no doubt be verbally (and perhaps physically) flogged to death by disgruntled teammates.
Defense Isn’t Just For Defenders
The better your offensive players understand defenses, the more points you will score, guaranteed. If you want to have a touchdown factory offense, you absolutely must know how to beat all the different defensive schemes you might face throughout a season or a tournament.
The Cover 2 Flag Football Defense
The most common defense used in flag football is a 2 deep safety formation with zones underneath, commonly called a cover 2. The safeties are responsible for the deep halves of the field, while the underneath defenders are responsible for a quarter or a third of the field, depending on how many rushers are sent. This is of course, based on a 7 vs 7 league, but simple adjustments can be made for 8 man teams to achieve the same coverage.
The cover 2 is widely popular across all levels of football. It’s fairly easy to teach, and it’s effective at shutting down the short range passing game when executed properly. A blazing fast pass rush makes this defense even more effective.
Coaching Points to Remember When Using Cover 2
- Watch the receivers hips and not his head or shoulders.
- Safeties stay as deep as the deepest receiver. If a receiver gets behind you and the QB finds him, it’s going to be six.
- Know your zone responsibility. Do not chase a receiver into another zone because it leaves your zone wide open.
- Communicate. Instead of running with a receiver into another zone, yell out the route to your teammates. Something simple like, “Out!” or “In!” works wonders. Also let your teammates know when the ball is in the air. Yell out “Ball!” as soon as the pass is thrown to let everyone know to turn and look for it, and make a play, Champ Bailey style.
- Read the quarterback. Some QBs tend to stare down their intended target. Make sure you keep an eye on him, and break on the ball as soon as he throws.
You can mix up your coverage and pressure by sending two rushers at the QB. Sending a LB makes this easy to disguise. One LB blitzes, while the other LB takes responsibility for the middle third of the field underneath. This allows more space for receivers to get open on short routes, but the added pressure of two rushers can make the QB rush his throw or make a bad decision. Also note that the cornerbacks are responsible for bigger zones as well.
Another good thing to do is change up your alignment before the snap to throw off the QB. Just remember not to move around so much that you can’t retreat to cover your zone.
Cover 2 Weaknesses
Many teams will just sit in cover 2 for the entire game. For this reason, it’s important for the offense to understand the vulnerabilities of the defensive scheme. Good teams will recognize and obliterate teams that camp out in the same coverage.
- The deep middle is a great attack point. This can be deadly if the slot receiver runs a good post route and splits the safeties, and the QB can throw a deep pass with some velocity. Running and throwing a good post route probably deserves a post all on it’s own.
- The sidelines behind the cornerback zones are also a weakness. Deep comebacks, corner routes, and fades can be great ways to attack this area. My personal favorite however is the smash route concept. The outside receiver runs a 5 yard curl, and the slot receiver runs a corner route underneath the safety. With some practice, this can be extremely effective. This concept has been used ad nauseum in the NFL for years, but most flag football defenses won’t be able to cover it.
- Trips formations put more receivers than defenders in a specific area of the field, creating a mathematical advantage. Good defenses will audible out of cover 2 when they see trips, but again, many flag football defenses don’t have any other defense to audible to.
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