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View Full Version : ESPN Article on TB, Indy, & Chicago "Cover 2"


Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 02:21 PM
I don't know if it's something we were trying to do this year, or to think about for next year....but the article offers some great insights.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2271514

I haven't studied the article, or the cool FLASHPlayer Graphics that accompany it yet, but it's interesting....but go to the article and click on the "Closer look at the Cover 2" link.



Updated: December 28, 11:05 AM ET
'Simple' scheme nets big gains for trio of defenses

By Michael Smith
ESPN.com

When Lovie Smith took over as Chicago's head coach last year, one of the first steps in installing the Tampa 2 defensive scheme was to change the way the Bears practiced. If a ball lay on the ground, Smith wanted his players to swarm to it like ants to a crumb, pick it up and carry it to pay dirt. And not just fumbles, mind you, but incomplete passes as well. (Per the rules of football, incompletions cannot be returned.)

"Sometimes you'll see us do it in games," Bears Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown said of the defense's take-it-to-the-house mind-set. The Bears have a league-high nine interception returns for touchdowns in Smith's two years as head coach. "It's our mentality."

Good defenses think alike -- aggressively. Before a recent practice in Indianapolis, Ron Meeks, the Colts' defensive coordinator, was asked how Indy's version of the Tampa 2 defense evolved in one season from the team's perceived weak link into a confident, physical group that carried the club through the first quarter of the season, before the Colts' high-octane offense got in gear.

"We play with so much energy and speed," Meeks said. "When the ball is thrown, we're like piranhas. We're attacking the ball carrier, attacking the receivers, trying to inflict as much pain and play with as much energy as we can. A lot of it is an attitude."

That aggressive approach is the foundation of the Tampa 2, the style of Cover 2 defense made popular by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Tony Dungy, starting in the mid- to late-1990s. Actually, it all started in the 1970s with Bud Carson's Steelers defenses, for whom Dungy played defensive back. Dungy learned the Cover 2 from Carson. In Cover 2, two safeties play zone (area) coverage, each of them responsible for half of the field. Dungy's Bucs had great success dropping a speedy middle linebacker (the "Mike") down the middle of the field to defend the pass, creating a three-deep look, while four often undersized but quick defensive linemen rushed the passer. And so, the Tampa 2 was born.

So, too, was a trend. Nowadays, most every defense in the league has some form of the Tampa 2 in its package. But no one is making the Tampa 2 do what it does better than the originators -- Dungy in Indianapolis, Smith in Chicago and longtime coordinator Monte Kiffin in Tampa. The Bears and Colts are division champions, and the Bucs a victory away from making it three-for-three for Tampa 2 teams.

Chicago's Nathan Vasher is tied for third in the league with 8 INTs.

The Bears' defense has had a season for the ages, drawing comparisons to Da Bears of 1985. Chicago is on pace to break the 19-year-old record for points allowed in a 16-game season (187). Chicago went 43 quarters without allowing more than seven points in one quarter, the second-longest such streak in the last 70 years. The Bears allowed the fewest points over eight home games (61) in league history. Naturally, Chicago's top-rated defense leads the league in fewest points allowed per game at 11.2. The Bears were 21st in total defense a year ago.

The Colts' defense also made a dramatic jump, in Dungy's fourth year, from 29th in 2004 to ninth this season. Indianapolis held its first five opponents to 10 points or fewer -- the third team since 1970 to do so -- and seven foes overall to 10 or fewer. The Colts rank second in points allowed per game (15.6). And like the Bears, they're playing with virtually the same personnel.

Meanwhile, Tampa has the NFL's No. 2-rated defense, having allowed 16 or more points only four times. The Bucs will finish in the top 10 in total defense for a ninth consecutive season.

It seems the Tampa 2 is an ideal scheme with which to turn around a defense virtually overnight. In 2001, Smith's first year as St. Louis' defensive coordinator, the Rams improved from 24th the previous season to third. Meeks was Smith's secondary coach that year, before going to Indianapolis with Dungy in 2002.

The secret to the Tampa 2 system? There really isn't one.

Less is more in this case. The brilliance of the scheme lies in its simplicity. What the Tampa 2 teams have figured out is that it isn't what they're doing, as much as it is who is doing it and how. Whereas success in defenses designed by the Bill Belichicks, Romeo Crennels and Nick Sabans place a great deal of faith in the players' aptitude, the Tampa 2's effectiveness has more to do with their attitude.

"There's no magic formula," Dungy said. "We don't do a whole lot, other than play hard and play well. Whether it's Pittsburgh or Tampa or Chicago or here, we're going to be fundamentally sound and try not to give up big plays and play hard and play smart. It's that more so than the X's and O's."

“ If you like cheeseburgers, [the Tampa 2] is OK because the cheeseburger's going to be the same everyday, all the time, whatever city you're in, ask for a cheeseburger and fries, it's going to be the same.”
—Colts coach Tony Dungy
The Tampa 2 is quite player-friendly. Each player is assigned a gap, and he is to attack it. Chicago, Indy and Tampa like to stop the run with eight players near the line of scrimmage, and on passing downs drop into their Cover 2 zone. They like to play it safe in this scheme, so it doesn't call for a lot of all-out blitzing with zero coverage (no safety in the middle, corners one-on-one), instead preferring to rely on the defensive line to apply pressure on the quarterback. "We play the odds a lot is what we do," said Smith, Dungy's linebackers coach in Tampa from 1996 through 2000.

They're always hustling in the Tampa 2, gang tackling ball carriers. It helps that the players have an idea where the ball is going. The Tampa 2 asks the corners to reroute the outside (also the most dangerous) receivers, delaying the release and buying the line more time to get to the quarterback.

"That's where the rush and the coverage come together," said Mike Tomlin, the Bucs' secondary coach and one of the league's top coordinator prospects. "The way you attack it is vertically. But in order to do that, you have to protect, or you have to get a bunch of people out to stress us. If you get people out, we've got one-on-one with the guys up-front. If you keep guys in to protect, we've got enough people in pass defense, and guys are in position to see the ball come out."

And attack.

"It allows them to play fast," Tomlin said.

The concept behind the Cover 2 is to prevent the big play by keeping everyone in front of the safeties and, when possible, making big plays. Simple.

It's more of a mentality than it is mental.

"[Pittsburgh coach] Bill Cowher, when we played them, he had to laugh," Dungy said. "He said they had an extra day, because it was Monday night, and they had all this extra time. 'But you guys only have one defense. We couldn't even utilize it.'"

When Colts owner Jim Irsay and team president Bill Polian hired Dungy four years ago, they knew, with the players Indy has on offense, they wouldn't have much salary cap space to allot for the defense, meaning the Colts would have to build that side of the ball through the draft and not free agency. Dungy and the Tampa 2 defense he taught were perfect for the Colts and their home stadium, the RCA Dome, with its artificial surface. "He brought a defense that fit completely with the kind of players we had here and the salary cap approach that we were forced to take," Polian said.

In recent years, Indianapolis has lost linebackers Mike Peterson and Marcus Washington to free agency, and after the Patriots pushed the Colts around for a second year in a row in the playoffs, fans and media wanted to see the Colts spend money on free agents for the defense, even at the expense of retaining franchise (and franchised) running back Edgerrin James. But Dungy knew it would only be a matter of time before his young players matured in the system.

"That was the trepidation: 'How are we going to get better because we didn't go out and get five or six new guys?'" Dungy said. "We felt the guys we got, [former Eagles defensive tackle] Corey Simon and [first-round cornerback] Marlin Jackson, were going to help us, but we knew that most of our improvement would come from Mike Doss, Bob Sanders, Cato June, Raheem Brock, playing more in the system and playing better because they knew what they were doing."

Simon calls the Tampa 2 a "man-whoop-a-man" defense. "If you can't beat your man," Simon said, "you're going to find holes in our defense. It's simple and sound. It's not real complicated."

Simeon Rice is the speedy, disruptive DE who applies pressure for Tampa Bay.

Dungy raised quite a few eyebrows, but he knew precisely what he was doing when he drafted undersized end Dwight Freeney in the first round of his first draft with the Colts. He was getting his version of Tampa's Simeon Rice, a premier pass rusher, a key component of the Tampa 2. Smith has two terrors coming off the edge in Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown. Sanders, taken in the second round last year, is the intimidator at safety, the Colts' version of ex-Buc John Lynch. For the Bears, that's Mike Brown.

The parallels in the blueprints don't stop there. Before Anthony McFarland took over, the Bucs had Warren Sapp as their dominant defensive tackle. The Colts have Simon; the Bears Tommie Harris, Smith's first draft pick. Lance Briggs is to the Bears what Derrick Brooks is to the Bucs, what former sixth-round pick and college safety June is to the Colts, the playmaking weak-side linebacker. Chicago has Brian Urlacher in the middle. Back in the day, the Bucs had Hardy Nickerson running the defense; now that guy is Shelton Quarles. Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher, Smith says, possesses the ball skills of Tampa's Ronde Barber.

What all of those players have in common is that they can move quickly. Along with an aggressive attitude, the Tampa 2 places a premium on speed. "I'm sure we don't emphasize [running to the ball] any more than anyone else does, but it's easier to fly to the ball when you have fast guys that can run," Dungy said. Speed often comes at the expense of size, though not always, as Smith discovered. "When I went to St. Louis," Smith said, "I was looking for those same body types. What I've since found out since I've been in Chicago, just looking at our linebackers, is you can have speed, quickness and size." Smith and defensive coordinator Ron Rivera grade their players on loafs, or how many times they don't hustle to the football.

At some point this season, the Bucs, Bears and Colts defenses were carrying their respective teams, some more than others. The Bears are an 11-win team despite infrequent contributions from their 31st-ranked offense. At the very least, Tampa 2 players don't have to carry huge playbooks. The Tampa 2's hallmark is execution rather than ingenuity.

The league's three Tampa 2 teams all have a legitimate shot at reaching Detroit and Super Bowl XL. Not coincidentally, Tampa, Chicago and Indy model their defenses after General Motors. They do one thing and they do it well.

"I tell guys it's like McDonald's," Dungy said. "If you like cheeseburgers, [the Tampa 2] is OK because the cheeseburger's going to be the same everyday, all the time, whatever city you're in, ask for a cheeseburger and fries, it's going to be the same. That's what we are -- the cheeseburger and fries that's the same way every week in every city."

Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

ZootedGranny
12-28-2005, 02:25 PM
It's a great D to run if you have the personnel, but the Chiefs don't have near the D-line that trio of teams does, nor the speed at safety.

Saulbadguy
12-28-2005, 02:26 PM
The Tampa 2 will be at Kansas State next season.

Ari Chi3fs
12-28-2005, 02:26 PM
mmmm, cheeseburger defense.

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 02:36 PM
It's a great D to run if you have the personnel, but the Chiefs don't have near the D-line that trio of teams does, nor the speed at safety.

The only significant addition on D for Indy this year was Simon. The key, IMO to Chicago's emergence has been the play of their DL--especially Harris. Damn, DT seems to be the key.

I think Allen, potentially, mirrors Freeney and Rice; Wesley, potentially, could be the safety we need but hasn't retuned to the form of his early career. The glaring weakness is at DT....we don't have a Simon, McFarland, or Tommie Harris.

With the way gun utilized our CBs all season, I was just shaking my head. It makes me wonder whether or not, this was what he was tryin' to do....but without the personnel we needed. :banghead:

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 02:39 PM
It may also explain the lack of BLITZING Gun did in many games this year. And the deep middle coverage that Mitchell always seemed to be in.... :hmmm:

If that was the case, talk about tryin' to fit a square peg in a round hole.... :shake:

chagrin
12-28-2005, 02:41 PM
Pretty nifty graphics breakdown, wonder what Buehler thinks about that, oh nevermind I forgot - he programmed the code for that graphic, with a little help from Rich Scanlon

:p

Chiefnj
12-28-2005, 02:46 PM
I'm still not sold on Indy's defense being anything special, other than being able to stop some pretty poor teams. Ravens, Jags (2), Browns, Titans(2), Texans (2), 49ers. I'll give them credit for holding Pitt to 7, but when they've faced teams with decent offenses they've buckled a bit - Cincy put up 37 and the Rams put up 28 until the QB went down.

Pitt Gorilla
12-28-2005, 03:01 PM
Chiefs fans would bitch perpetually that the "corners are playing too far off the receivers. Why don't they play them man to man? They must suck." I've argued on this forum for years the value of a good zone. Chiefs fans would be irate at an Indy/Tampa/Chicago zone.

Zach
12-28-2005, 03:04 PM
Gunther Cunningham runs a man-to-man defense, but with the inability to get pressure from the front-four, he has been forced into playing a lot of Cover-3 and Cover-4 defenses. Both have the corners playing off with saftey's playing deep. It is a bend and don't break style.

A lot of people on this board have meantioned that Gun doesn't use his corners correctly. Gun is only doing what he is able to do, as if he played a Cover-1 (man-to-man), teams would hang 50+ points on us because we can't get to the quaterback. The Gunther defense we know and love has not been implemented due to inability to get a steady pass rush. When KC is forced to blitz to gain pressure, teams pick it up, and gain chunks of yardage underneath our 'cloud defense'.

This Cover 2 talk that is referenced in this piece is the same defense that GREG ROBINSON tried for several years. The Tampa Two is a variant of the Cover Two in which the corners play up and stop the run, the saftey's take halves the field with the middle linebacker dropping deep underneath the safties.

If you cannot run the Cover 2, you will be toast just as KC was for the past few years. At least in Gunther's style of defense it doesn't give 'the over the top' pass.

Bottom line is--our defense is fine, it just needs better play out of the front four. No matter if we play a Cover-2, or the style Gunther has brought. The Rams also play a version of the cover two.

Good defenses have outstanding defensive line play. You do not need all-world Pro Bowlers, but you do need guys who can get the job done. Eric Hicks is a leader and plays his butt off but does not make big plays. Our defensive tackles are horrible with Dalton providing a bright spot here and there. Jared Allen is a nice player, but is horrible in the run game. Watch the tape--he is giving up the same plays he gave up in preseason (ala the long Vikings run) as he is now (Tiki off-tackle).

This defense is not far from being good. It is a few defensive lineman away from really opening up the rest of the players to do what they do best.

Hope this helps-
Zach

tk13
12-28-2005, 03:07 PM
I'm still not sold on Indy's defense being anything special, other than being able to stop some pretty poor teams. Ravens, Jags (2), Browns, Titans(2), Texans (2), 49ers. I'll give them credit for holding Pitt to 7, but when they've faced teams with decent offenses they've buckled a bit - Cincy put up 37 and the Rams put up 28 until the QB went down.
I don't think they're THAT great either.

The only problem is, I don't necessarily see a real well balanced team to take them down in the AFC. Maybe the Patriots, maybe. I think the Colts can be dominated up front. I'm not sure who can do that though. Cincy can, but I'm not sure their D will let them get to the Colts matchup. Pittsburgh maybe, but Roethlisberger has to play better than last time. I think the best offense to take them apart in the AFC is the Chiefs, honestly, LJ would crush them, our line would dominate theirs, and Tony G. is usually able to run free through their zones.

Bob Dole
12-28-2005, 03:11 PM
Chiefs fans would bitch perpetually that the "corners are playing too far off the receivers. Why don't they play them man to man? They must suck." I've argued on this forum for years the value of a good zone. Chiefs fans would be irate at an Indy/Tampa/Chicago zone.

Huh?

The Tampa 2 asks the corners to reroute the outside (also the most dangerous) receivers, delaying the release and buying the line more time to get to the quarterback.

You don't do that by playing 9 yards off the receiver at the snap.

Zach
12-28-2005, 03:14 PM
After reviewing my post, it would be foolish for KC to change to a Cover 2 defense, because of the players we have. Surtain is not a cover two corner and while Warfield would be a solid cover two corner, his talents are suited for a cover-1 style. Same with the safties. Cover-two puts a lot of pressure on the safties to be fast and cover tons of ground--which is not the strong point of Knight and while Wesley is fast he struggled in GRob's cover-two.

Our LB's are not coverage style Linebackers. Yes, DJ is fast and had success at Texas, but he is the only one who could play it.

As Chiefs fans most of us would probably want a fast turn around to the playoffs. If we switched to a cover-2 it would be another rebuilding process.

No matter who the coach is next season, a Cover-2 scheme should not be in the cards for the Chiefs next year. The Draft and FA should focus on d-lineman and the future of our offense.

Chiefnj
12-28-2005, 03:14 PM
I don't think they're THAT great either.

The only problem is, I don't necessarily see a real well balanced team to take them down in the AFC. Maybe the Patriots, maybe. I think the Colts can be dominated up front. I'm not sure who can do that though. Cincy can, but I'm not sure their D will let them get to the Colts matchup. Pittsburgh maybe, but Roethlisberger has to play better than last time. I think the best offense to take them apart in the AFC is the Chiefs, honestly, LJ would crush them, our line would dominate theirs, and Tony G. is usually able to run free through their zones.

At home, in the dome on turf, Indy will be tough to beat. Cincy and KC could get into a shootout with them and have a slim chance of winning it. They don't seem to match up well with Pitt. New England is still one dangerous team that matches up well with them, as does the Jags D for some reason.

Mr. Laz
12-28-2005, 03:31 PM
Chiefs fans would bitch perpetually that the "corners are playing too far off the receivers. Why don't they play them man to man? They must suck." I've argued on this forum for years the value of a good zone. Chiefs fans would be irate at an Indy/Tampa/Chicago zone.

i don't think you give Chiefs fans enough credit

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 03:40 PM
Huh?



You don't do that by playing 9 yards off the receiver at the snap.

Exactly right. You play tight corner coverage, underneath (flats) in the Tampa "cover 2." Yes, it's still zone; but this two-deep zone has corners much tighter than ours have lined-up.

That is, in part, because the "cover 2" that Gun runs, is actually more like a "cover 3" (field divided into 3 zones-CBs on the outside of the hash marks, with one safety (often the FS) covering between the hash marks) disguised as a "cover 2"--only one of our safeties is REAL coverage, the other is either blitzing or has first priority in run support. This means, in essence we are man-to-man, which is why help is often late, or never arriving.

Using Patrick Surtain like that has been borderline criminal, in my book. If you play a "loose" zone, then he's vulnerable to short routes, slants, and crossing patterns; if you tighten him up too much and expect him to bump-n-run without help over-the-top, he can be beaten (he's not Hasty, or Carter--just not as physical--which, if you use his skills, isn't a bad thing.) IMO, he's best in a "cover 2" scheme where he's in tight zone coverage (like in Miami)--which let's him use his instincts, his ability to read the QB, and his agressiveness.

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 03:52 PM
After reviewing my post, it would be foolish for KC to change to a Cover 2 defense, because of the players we have. Surtain is not a cover two corner and while Warfield would be a solid cover two corner, his talents are suited for a cover-1 style. Same with the safties. Cover-two puts a lot of pressure on the safties to be fast and cover tons of ground--which is not the strong point of Knight and while Wesley is fast he struggled in GRob's cover-two....

With Fox and Griffin coming back, and the progress Mitchell has made (he has wheels), I think we could be a monster DT and another DE away from being able to do it...all you need to do is tighten up Surtain and Warfield--they are both athletic enough and fast enough to play this. We could still man-up Warfield in certain situations, yes.

I'd argue Surtain is a potentially GREAT cover 2 CB, IF he plays tight (how he played in Miami, btw)....his problem this year was he was in a loose zone 8-9 yds deep, so he was sometimes caught between. This is how I said it earlier in the thread....

Using Patrick Surtain like that has been borderline criminal, in my book. If you play a "loose" zone, then he's vulnerable to short routes, slants, and crossing patterns; if you tighten him up too much and expect him to bump-n-run without help over-the-top, he can be beaten (he's not Hasty, or Carter--just not as physical--which, if you use his skills, isn't a bad thing.) IMO, he's best in a "cover 2" scheme where he's in tight zone coverage (like in Miami)--which let's him use his instincts, his ability to read the QB, and his agressiveness.

tk13
12-28-2005, 03:56 PM
At home, in the dome on turf, Indy will be tough to beat. Cincy and KC could get into a shootout with them and have a slim chance of winning it. They don't seem to match up well with Pitt. New England is still one dangerous team that matches up well with them, as does the Jags D for some reason.
Yeah I agree. I think Pittsburgh matches up well, but they got thumped last time they played them, so who knows. Big Ben would have to be smart with the football, or the Steelers D would have to play out of this world. If Leftwich is back and healthy the Jags would probably give them a run just because they're division rivals. I don't think Denver matches up well with them at all.

Mr. Laz
12-28-2005, 03:56 PM
all you need to do is tighten up Surtain and Warfield--they are both athletic enough and fast enough to play this.

We could still man-up Warfield in certain situations, yes. ....
i think Warfield is part of the problem in our current system


i don't think they trust Warfield to play man or a tight zone ... and if warfield has to play a loose zone then so does the rest of the secondary.


warfield should of been a free safety and needs to be moved back there.

htismaqe
12-28-2005, 04:02 PM
After reviewing my post, it would be foolish for KC to change to a Cover 2 defense, because of the players we have. Surtain is not a cover two corner and while Warfield would be a solid cover two corner, his talents are suited for a cover-1 style. Same with the safties. Cover-two puts a lot of pressure on the safties to be fast and cover tons of ground--which is not the strong point of Knight and while Wesley is fast he struggled in GRob's cover-two.

Our LB's are not coverage style Linebackers. Yes, DJ is fast and had success at Texas, but he is the only one who could play it.

As Chiefs fans most of us would probably want a fast turn around to the playoffs. If we switched to a cover-2 it would be another rebuilding process.

No matter who the coach is next season, a Cover-2 scheme should not be in the cards for the Chiefs next year. The Draft and FA should focus on d-lineman and the future of our offense.

Our LB's are PERFECT for Cover 2. DJ and Fox on the outside, Mitchell in the middle.

Our CB's are adequate, but would work just fine.

Our problem is at safety.

Instead of throwing up our hands and saying "we don't have the personnel for it" do what we should have done 2 years ago:

FIRE GREG WESLEY.

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 07:26 PM
i think Warfield is part of the problem in our current system


i don't think they trust Warfield to play man or a tight zone ... and if warfield has to play a loose zone then so does the rest of the secondary.


warfield should of been a free safety and needs to be moved back there.

Then fire Warfield, use him in nickel; and replace Wesley.

Viola'! :)

B_Ambuehl
12-28-2005, 09:43 PM
In a cover 2 scheme you take that 50 million dollars earned by man to man corners and replace it with 50 million on DEs and tackles. It doesn't take shut down corners to play cover 2 because guys don't have to turn their back to the quarterback and then turn around and look for the ball. Dex McCleon had 6 ints playing G-robs cover 2. Sapp would probably be a pretty good cover 2 corner based on what I've seen of him. The problem is the Chiefs have already allocated ~50 million or whatever amount on those man to man corners.

Mr. Kotter
12-28-2005, 10:13 PM
In a cover 2 scheme you take that 50 million dollars earned by man to man corners and replace it with 50 million on DEs and tackles. It doesn't take shut down corners to play cover 2 because guys don't have to turn their back to the quarterback and then turn around and look for the ball. Dex McCleon had 6 ints playing G-robs cover 2. Sapp would probably be a pretty good cover 2 corner based on what I've seen of him. The problem is the Chiefs have already allocated ~50 million or whatever amount on those man to man corners.

On the other hand, IF we can sign/find a stud DT and a DE, to pair with Sims and Allen....I'd like our chances of pulling it off. :drool:

Especially since Gun seems to have given up on the man-press coverage, and aggressive blitzing we were expecting. :banghead: