Cover 2 defense part of the team’s plan


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Jan 22, 2006
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Cover 2 defense part of the team’s plan
Chiefs have scheme covered
The Kansas City Star

Write this down — on an early winter morning at Arrowhead Stadium, Gunther Cunningham surfaced. And spoke. He popped his head into Herm Edwards’ office, dropped off some papers and glanced at a diagram.

For two minutes, Cunningham was no longer a ghost. He was feisty. He had heard the speculation that there was no way he’d still be around as Kansas City’s defensive coordinator once Edwards was hired. He had read at least twice that he wasn’t a Cover 2 guy.

“You didn’t think I coached that?” Cunningham said to a reporter. “My God, I’m older than your dad.”

NFL historians say the Cover 2, the trendiest scheme in the NFL, was born in Pittsburgh with the Steel Curtain in the 1970s and revived by Edwards, Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay in 1996.

Cunningham wants you to know that he was running the defense extensively in 1995. Remember Neil Smith, Dan Saleaumua and Derrick Thomas? They were the foundation of the Cover 2, the ever-important pass rush.

Now Edwards is in town, he’s a defensive guy, and he’s talking for 30 minutes about a scheme that drew odd looks in 1996 but is now a part of nearly every NFL team’s package.

“We’re going to play some Cover 2,” Edwards said. “That’s a fact.

“I think it’s a mind-set. You have to believe you can be successful playing this coverage, and you have to also be able to count on the guys that are involved in it.”

The premise of the scheme is simple — prevent big plays by keeping the quarterback from going vertical. In Cover 2, or Tampa 2, the safeties are split in deep zone coverage, each responsible for half the field. The cornerbacks defend the flats, the linebackers cover the middle. A fast middle linebacker drops down the middle of the field to defend against the pass.

Tampa Bay’s early success was more scheme than personnel, more attitude than might. With a group of undersized but speedy linebackers, the Buccaneers went from No. 27 in total defense to No. 11 in one year.

That first season, Dungy and Edwards felt like the first guys who wore bellbottoms to the disco. There were blank stares, confused looks, and least four guys out of position.

“They were just trying to figure it out,” Edwards said. “They thought, ‘What is this guy running down the middle of the field for?’

“The more we did it, the more they kind of liked it. But early, I mean, it was tough. We kept playing it, and the players started believing.”

Three playoff teams ran the Cover 2 extensively in 2005 — Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts, Chicago and Tampa Bay. All three had one thing in common — an attacking, hustling, ball-hawking mentality. It’s a mind-set, said Tampa Bay rookie linebacker Barrett Ruud, echoing Edwards’ sentiment. Aggression wins football games.

Ruud, who was knocked for his lack of speed coming out of Nebraska, was saddled with one of the toughest jobs on defense. As a middle linebacker, he covers receivers from the middle of the field to the goal line in addition to playing the run.

“It seems like a simple defense,” Ruud said. “We don’t run a lot of defenses, but we really have to be on top of defenses we do run. Since Tony Dungy on, the whole key of the Cover 2 is getting guys to the ball, an effort defense.

“We don’t have freakish, special athletes, just guys who really work hard and enjoy what they’re doing.”

Edwards said the Cover 2 won’t be the Chiefs’ base defense. It wasn’t Tampa’s base in those early days, either, though the Bucs ran it more than half of the time.

Edwards, hired on Jan. 9, is still breaking down film and evaluating talent. His first impression is that the Chiefs’ defensive strength lies in its linebackers.

“They’re very, very athletic as a whole,” Edwards said. “I’m not saying we don’t have any good players on the defensive line or the secondary, because we do. But if you look at the whole of the group, the strength is the linebackers, and that’s not all bad. Because to play in this league, if you want to play with the base personnel, you have to have linebackers that are athletic that can play in space.”

To be successful with the Cover 2, the Chiefs probably will have to shop for help on the defensive line in the offseason. Second-year end Jared Allen was far and away the team’s best pass rusher with 11 sacks. After that, the numbers dropped off dramatically.

The other seven defenders, who are called the underneath players in Tampa 2, must rally to the ball and have great eyes, Edwards said.

Cunningham’s ears, by the way, are working fine. He wants to remind you that the Chiefs ran plenty of Cover 2 on third-down passing situations in 2005. Just before he slid out the door, he mentioned a Patrick Surtain interception against San Diego.

“That was Cover 2,” he said.

Write it down. In Kansas City, it’s about to become chic.
Holy cow. This ought to be humorous. They're going to run a cover-2 with Wesley and Knight at safety? Booyah! Hell, that scheme with that personnel may even make Jerry Porter look like the second coming of Jerry Rice.
TommyGirl said:
Holy cow. This ought to be humorous. They're going to run a cover-2 with Wesley and Knight at safety? Booyah! Hell, that scheme with that personnel may even make Jerry Porter look like the second coming of Jerry Rice.
Aw c'mon TG....if Edwards is smart, he'll be getting some better cb's :p
Angel said:
Aw c'mon TG....if Edwards is smart, he'll be getting some better cb's :p
Well, good. I hope he does. As I said, I also hope that he'll think that the safeties are good enough as they are. It will make for some great Moss and Porter highlights on ESPN if they're planning on running a Cover-2.
Well, I definitely agree with you on needing better safeties...hopefully that will happen....:)
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