By Ryan Desrochers
Sunrise Mountain High School (AZ)
Like most 3-3 Stack defenses, we run mainly cover 3 and we bring a lot of pressure. That said, we are not the type of team that will just sit in the cover 3 shell and wait for offenses to pick on us. Instead, we have a few variations in our pocket to keep the offense guessing. Perhaps our favorite variation is our Jump Coverage concept that takes away the quick throws from the offense. We have found this particularly effective on 3rd and short when the offense is expecting pressure. Instead, our jump coverage sends four rushers and spot drops the coverage behind it one yard in front of the first down marker.
Before we get into the details of jump coverage, I think it is helpful to know what jump is meant to counter. In addition to our base cover 3 set, we will align in a 2 high safety shell and drop down a defender and roll to some variation of cover 3. We protect against the 4 vertical threat in cover 3 by having our curl to flat players carry the number 2 receiver vertical for 10-12 yards before zoning off. We also tell those defenders to push and widen the receivers off of the seams. Against a 3x1 set, our back side hook to curl player will wall and carry the number 3 receiver vertically while the curl to flat player play side carries #1 receiver and our hook to curl player carries the number 2 receiver. On the back side, we over/under with the corner and the curl to flat player creating a double team to the one receiver side. Like most teams, we do not chase any routes under five yards. Our basic philosophy is that we are going to pressure the QB, usually overloading a side and running either man free or 3 over 3 under fire zone coverage, and force the QB to make the wide throw to the sideline.
Our basic cover 3 defense has our corners and free safety dropping into their assigned thirds while our dog safeties will be our curl to flat players. We will pressure with one linebacker while the other two are our hook to curl defenders. Of course you can run the same concepts with the corner or free safety being the field curl to flat defenders or the dog safety to the weak side dropping down into the hook to curl zone. Once the base coverage is installed and understood, the players will be able to adapt to the jump concept.
Jump Coverage Basics
The basic premise of our Jump Coverage is that we spot drop to landmarks on the field and react to the QB from there. Our landmarks are for our curl flat players to get to the numbers and our hook curl players to get to the hashes in a 2x2 set. In a 3x1 set our curl flat defender goes to the numbers, our front side hook to curl player will split the numbers and hash, and our backside curl to flat player will buzz the hash. This is the only time when we will drop our coverage within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage depending on the distance needed for a first down. The premise to this coverage is to have the offense get rid of the ball quickly expecting pressure, but then take away the quick throws and force the QB to hold the ball, resulting in a bad decision or sack.