Last time I showed how MSU played a cover 3 look on 3rd and long against ND. This time, we'll look at how they can give that same look, still play cover 3, but manage to confuse the offense nonetheless.
The Set Up
Just a reminder of the set-up: it's third and long and here is the defensive formation.
Same Coverage, Different Look
This is something that MSU didn't run, but may in the future. The initial look is the same and it will still be a cover 3. However, now MSU will only bring 5 man pressure and will adjust the coverage behind the play to take away any routes.
Now MSU has built in the adjustment to any route concepts into their coverage. Both defenders are playing soft near the first down marker. If the #2 receiver decides to attack the seam on a vertical route, the seam defender will check #1 and have time to determine if he needs to carry the #2 deep or break off to his sideline curl/hook underneath zone. This allows, theoretically, for the defense to maintain 5 deep defenders.
Meanwhile, if one of the receivers doesn't run a vertical route, then the coverage will become a typical cover 3 as soon as one of them breaks or the QB's eyes take the underneath defenders to the play (essentially, the backside zone will be vacated in this concept).
Alright, so let’s look specifically how this coverage will adjust to different schemes.
#2 breaking Short
#1 Breaking Short
Same Coverage, Different Look: Part 2
Obviously, the weakness of the last concept is the seam defender holding the vertical route from the #2 and breaking on the #1 hitch, so now MSU can invert their deep third defenders and allow the outside CBs to make the read adjustment. The worry here is that the QB will fit a quick pass into the seam, so to adjust, MSU will give the initial pressure look, but will back off their OLBs. The perceived pressure from the OL is 6, but MSU actually only brings 4.
With slight adjustments to the look, you can run a safe cover 3 look with varying pressures and confuse the QB, offensive line, and WRs. By having these three variants in your back pocket, you can ensure that you are not giving up the big play, and force the offense not only to work for first downs, but be careful that they aren't falling into a trap placed by Pat Narduzzi.