Saturday, May 1, 2010

Man Coverage vs. Tandem & Bunch Formations

We are beginning to see more formations with reduced splits. Here is one solution to dealing with reduced splits by the offense when in man coverage.

We refer to any twins set with a reduced split as Tandem even if the receivers are stacked.
  1. Communicate that they are playing a combo man coverage on the Tandem
  2. Align bracketing (1 inside leverage & 1 outside leverage) the Tandem
  3. Coordinate their levels (depth) to prevent collisions 
  4. Both are reading the receiver aligned off the LOS (in this example #1) 

If #1 goes under immediately the inside of the combo (SS) will take it and the outside (Corner) will squeeze to #2.
Vs. a whip route (in then back out) the DB's will stay. Once the receiver goes inside the man responsibilities are set to avoid confusion.
If #1 goes out the Corner will take it and the SS will squeeze to #2
Vs. #1 vertical the SS and Corner will pedal and maintain their bracket position. The SS must be ready for any inside breaking routes and the Corner must be ready for any outside breaking routes.
This same teaching model is then applied to covering a Bunch (3 receivers with reduced splits).
Vs. Bunch the Middle player vs. the Bunch (SS) plays press man and has #2 all the way. The press is used to disrupt the release of the bunch and help the DBs coordinate their levels. The FS and C will bracket the bunch and play the #1 and #3 receivers like Tandem. However, both receiver are off the LOS therefore both the FS and Corner will read the inside receiver's release.


  1. Do you utilize the same coverage principal versus a tight bunch set?

  2. Yes we do. The only adjustments happen based on who is blitzing and who are the 3 in man coverage on the bunch.

  3. depending upon the personnel in the bunch, couldn't you substitute a nickel back instead of the strong safety?

  4. Absolutely. Bringing in a nickle may be the defense's solution to getting a better man coverage matchup. For 4-2-5 teams (TCU, Boise St, etc) they are in a "Nickle" personnel every snap so they have confidence putting their SS, FS, or WS in man coverage.

  5. Well written article. A few questions though...

    Versus wide bunch, what are your alignments and depths?

    Have you ever played this versus bunch (3 rec.) with the defender aligned on #2 jamming and funneling with flat responsibility?

    How would you handle a team that ran wide bunch with #1 on the LOS with #2 and #3 off?

    Thanks for your response.

  6. #1 Our alignment vs. Bunch is typically the middle bunch player pressed on the #2 WR. The Corner 1x5 outside leverage. The inside bunch player 1x5 inside of the bunch. The inside and outside of the combo must communicate their levels. One will be a 4 and one will be at 6. We gameplan based on what routes they run from the bunch.
    #2 We do jam and funnel the #2 receiver and play zone but it is typically a cover 2 concept with the corner as the flat defender. The thinking being that we want cloud run support for crack scheme outside flow runs. Also we feel if the defender on #2 jams he can more easily be outleveraged to the flat by either #1 or #3 in the bunch.
    #3 we have jammed the guy on the LOS regardless of which receiver it is. we have also played combo on #1 and #2 and locked up the #3. and we have played the #1 and #3 defenders closer to the LOS with the #2 guy backed off. We still lock up the #2 for #2 and combo #1 & #3 with the inside and outside.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Third diagram from bottom "Tandem: #1 running a '9' and #2 with an outside breaking option route".
    Would it make more sense to have your corner maintaining leverage on the deep route (#1), and telling your safety to just play the outside break "late"? I'm asking this because of the depth of the safety and the potential speed of the #1 receiver makes this a potential busted coverage. Also, most defensive backs are taught to "look through the #2 receiver, so based off of depth it'd be very difficult for the safety to play the #1 deep.
    My suggestion would be play the safety deeper and the corner from a closer alignment.

  8. #1 This is Cover 0 behind a blitz so denying the quick inside breaking routes is the most important thing. Our base align is to have the inside of the combo closer to the L.O.S. to deny those inside breaking routes.

    #2 In my experience the majority of tandem routes involve an immediate quick exchange by the #1 & #2 receivers making the 3rd diagram one of the least likely situations for the DB's to face.

    #3 If you tell the SS to "break late" on the out cut he will not get there against any type of speed cut by the WR. The offense is operating from a tandem which typically also means reduced split of WR's from the core. The difficulty for the defense is that there is a great deal of space to the outside of the tandem for the QB to put the ball wide and let the WR run to it. The throw can be gone quickly against pressure and is replicatible for the offense. If the outside of the combo is taking the out cut there is a high probability that ball is well defended.

    #4 If the corner takes the vertical and the WR bends his route inside the corner has an almost impossible task. The same is true if the #1 is running a post. The bender/post is the most easily completable deep route for an offense. Therefore we want an inside leverage defender covering a possible inside breaking route.

    #5 He who has the chalk last wins. The offense will always try to create difficult situations with their splits, routes, etc... If they know what we are doing they will have an answer. That is why our combo rules are a staring point. We have several other ways to defend tandem formations in man coverage. We can adjust our alignments, man techniques, match-ups, pattern matches, and we can always lock it up and not combo at all. All teaching models have to have a baseline starting point and the rules in the post are the starting point

  9. Hi,

    I'm a new coach who is still learning and thought this was a great article and wanted to implement this coverage in my playbook but I wanted to know when you said the players must communicate their levels one is a 4 and the other is a 6. What did you mean by that?