By Derrick Minor - @coachminordbs
Former Defensive Coordinator
The “Big Sky” Cover 3 is a three deep coverage with four underneath coverage zones that converts to a four deep coverage with 3 underneath zones based on what route the #2 WR runs. Big Sky is a man to man technique that we will play on the # 2 WR to the multiple receiver side. If the formation is balanced we will employ the Big Sky technique to the field or the QB’s throwing arm. See diagrams 1 - 3.
Why Big Sky?
First and foremost, we like the “Big SKY” concept because it’s a safe coverage concept that allows us to employ the concept verses a variety of formations and personal groupings because of how we play a fast #2 WR be it in a 3x1 or 2x2 set. In addition it affords us the ability to match speed with speed out of our base 4-2-5 and fire zone packages regardless of how our front is aligned. Because we man of the #2 WR it affords of the flexibility to be in a single high shell verses a potential 4 vertical threats out of 3x1 or 2x2 formations and still be sound in our coverage principles.
Often times we will hide our coverage’s by aligning in a two shell and rolling to it late. However, there are time when we will line up and show it because QB’s can have a hard time discerning whether or not we are manning up the #2 WR because our Quick (Q) and Strong Safety (SS) align the same way every time, which is 4x4 outside of the EMOL. We do this because we want to all ways give the appearance that they are ON! Meaning one of them if not both of them are coming on some type of pressure or blitz off the edge. In our 4-2-5 scheme our FS, SS and Q are interchangeable, meaning at any time base on the formation, Trade, Shift or motion (TSM) or designated call any one of them can be responsible for “Big Sky” coverage on a number #2 WR. See Diagram 4 and 5.
In Diagram 4, the call is Hawk ‘Storm” Cover 3, which is a pressure for us in our system. Normally, the SS would have “Big Sky” responsibility on the #2 WR to the multiple receiver side. However, because he is part of the pressure he no longer has “Big Sky responsibility. When this happens our safeties know to spin down and replace the SS who is now a part of the pressure. Now our FS has “Big Sky responsibility and our Q is playing deep middle 3rd. WE NEVER CHECK OUT OF A PRESSURE!
In Diagram 5, the call is Hawk Tank “Quiver” Cover 3 which is another pressure for us. The motion of the slot WR to the open side of the formation would normally mean that Q would have “Big Sky” responsibility. However because he is part of the pressure our FS will spin down and play “Big Sky” on the new #2 WR to the open side and our SS with have deep middle 3rd responsibility.
Why Not Check Out?
We never check out of a pressure for two reasons, the first being: the 4-2-5 is a built in nickel defense, because of that it affords us the ability employ a variety of pressures/blitzes and still be able to match speed with speed in space and account for coverage zones and not ask a LB to cover a fast #2 or 3 WR in space. The second reason is: I like to keep things simple for my players. I don’t want them thinking too much. Offenses will TSM you to death if they know they can get you to check out of pressures/blitzes.
Strengths / Weaknesses of the Coverage