Friday, December 31, 2010

Fire Zone Coverage Series

The final post of the series will cover the techniques of the 3 deep players in a 3 under 3 deep Fire Zone coverage concept. The underneath coverage was featured previously in posts on the Seam and 3RH techniques. The technique of the FZ 1/3 corner is described in Dick Lebeau's 2002 Cincinnati Bengals playbook.

Lebeau gives rules for the corner on page 144


The Corner is playing a very aggressive technique on the #1 receiver's route. The only route the corner is not aggressively playing is when the #1 receiver releases on a shallow crossing route. In that case the Corner will work the Deep 1/3 divider and squeeze to a vertical by the #2 receiver.

The Corners must be alert for reduced splits that might result in the #1 receiver going on a fast crossing route. With the Seam player carrying #2 vertical the Corner is not required to midpoint 2 vertical is his zone as he would in a traditional Cover 3 Deep 1/3.  This allows the Corner to play press or bail technique on the #1 receiver and does not require the Corner to make a "China" call vs. smash route concepts. Overall the concept is very simple; the corner plays #1's route aggressively unless it is a shallow crossing route.

The play of the Middle 1/3 or FZ Middle player as Lebeau calls it is very similar to a traditional Cover 3 middle 1/3 safety. The safety will work the middle 1/3 divider (imaginary line that cuts the middle 1/3 in half) and expect the Seam players to carry and deliver vertical routes. The FZ Middle player will midpoint 2 verticals and squeeze to 1 vertical route in the middle 1/3.

The FZ Middle player does have to be aware of the release of the #3 receiver. If the #3 receiver releases out the FZ Middle player must lean to #3 because the Seam player will go with the flat route and the 3RH player will not stretch vertically.

The Fire Zone coverage concept allows for many of the benefits of man free coverage while still utilizing zone coverage concepts.


  1. Blitzology, it looks like you have taught inside-out scif technique (the only technique I was aware of until reading your article). I am intrigued by the outside-in technique, but I wonder if you are milited in your pre-snap looks by having to have the seam player be outside of #2. It seems like a good QB would be able to see that and know fire zone is coming. By having the him be an inside-out scif player, he could fake a blitz and still get back to #2. What do you think? What do you think you will try to teach it next yr?

  2. Coach Hoover,
    I have always been a Scif guy previously but we are going to give the Seam technique a shot next season. Because we play our man coverage and 4 under 2 deep from inside leverage on #2, I think an outside leverage technique will tie our pressure package together nicely. Hopefully, some flustered QB's will throw at leveraged defenders. We are going to install the new technique this spring and see how it goes. I will also note that I haven’t torn the old pages out of the playbook just yet. I do agree that disguise is an issue. The Steeler Seam players are very kinetic pre-snap and do a good job of disguising it. If the Seam guy is an invert safety the disguise is pretty easy because I think it is difficult for the QB to determine the invert's leverage on the receiver. I also think that if a QB can see and compute outside leverage + pressure = fire zone . . .which means the ball goes here…and completes it…well tip of the cap to him. My biggest concern is if the technique is too involved. One of our defense’s philosophies is K.I.L.L. (Keep it Likeable & Learnable). My task now is to find a teaching model to make this technique learnable.

  3. I agree that the alignment and leverage is an issue. Its a problem anytime the seam defender is coming dropping as an inside LB or from DE. I have been thinking maybe we play the "seam" tech whenever we have leverage, and play the "scif" whenever we don't (such as when DE/ILB are dropping). Thoughts? Also about your comment/diagram when #3 goes to the flat and #2 is vertical. Let's say #1 runs a curl, #2 runs a corner and #3 to the flat. Now no one will be on the route of #2 as the corner is playing aggressive on #1. I guess we can't solve all the issues?

  4. Tracey,
    I think the challenge you face in trying to play both a SCIF and a SEAM depending on leverage is teaching the techniques. Can you get the guys to execute both? How much time will it take to master both? Me personally, I like the continuity of having the technique be the same vs. all looks. As for the vertical by #2 and flat route by #3 the answer is not as clear. Lebeau says in his playbook (page 144), “***SPECIAL COVERAGE TECHNIQUE FOR SLOT CORNER ROUTES ALERT FOR TRIPS SLOT – SLOT RECEIVER ON A CORNER ROUTE”. What is this “special coverage technique”? The answer is I don’t know so if anyone out there can shed some light on this topic it would be greatly appreciated. One thought is the “Mable” adjustment from the Dom Caper’s playbook. Mable allows the Seam player to carry #2 vertical aggressively because the 3RH player is responsible for #3 to the flat. Perhaps the adjustment is to the Safety’s technique turning into more of a ¼ over the #2 & #3 receivers as opposed to a middle 1/3. Maybe the answer is vs. 3x1 they play the corner more like a deep 1/3 player. Good question and I wish I had a more definitive answer.