Las Vegas Raiders: Is Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme dead?
By BD Williams
Disguising Cover 3 Post-Snap
The most recent advancement in modernizing Cover 3 to defend NFL offenses has been all about disguising Cover 3 to look like something else and forcing the quarterback to work after the ball is snapped to identify the coverage accordingly.
One of the best examples of this type of cloak and dagger disguise of Cover 3 has been run by the best defense in football in 2020. The Rams have their middle safeties bait the quarterback into throwing to the teeth of the coverage by closing the middle of the field late in the down.
Watch Rams Safety Jordan Fuller initially take a path towards the numbers, effectively indicating to Tom Brady post-snap that the defense is in a Cover 4 or Cover 2 defense. This is exactly what the defense wants Brady to think and the veteran Quarterback rifles the ball down the middle of the field.
However, Fuller starts running back to the middle of the before Brady gets the ball out of his hand and the result is an interception. Proof that with enough modern adjustments, Cover 3 can work against the best NFL Quarterbacks.
Another example of disguising coverages is a principle that started a few years ago to prevent pre-snap indicators from giving quarterbacks too much information. NFL offenses use little tricks like putting all of their receivers on one side of the field or splitting a back out wide to see how the defense lines up. If defenders are out of place; like a linebacker out wide or an outside cornerback in the slot, this is a pre-snap indicator to the quarterback that the defense is in man coverage.
In this clip, the New York Giants have all three cornerbacks to one side of the formation, telling the quarterback they are in man coverage. It isn’t until the passer is planting to throw before the defense starts to show zone and New York cornerback James Bradberry playing the strong hook zone, steps in front of a pass that had a much higher probability of being completed had the Giants actually been playing man coverage.
Cover 3 is being embraced by coaches around the league, even those coaches who haven’t once coached in Seattle. Of course, it can’t be the only coverage that a defense is good at running, but it remains a flexible scheme that has proven to be able to adjust to the modern NFL passing game.
Raiders fans shouldn’t worry about Cover 3 being dead, it is alive and well.