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Inside Monte Kiffin's Playbook: The Coverage

We've already covered the assignments of the front four, and to a limited degree the front seven as a unit, as discussed in Monte Kiffin's 1998 Buccaneers playbook.

Stephen Dunn

When we discussed defensive fronts, we reviewed three total schemes: the Under, the Over, and the Over Stem. As coverages are concerned, we're somewhat less informed.

Kiffin's playbook makes use of exactly one coverage look. Whether the lack of other schemes is due to the playbook ending early or simply the playbook originating from training camp, prior to the other schemes being introduced, or even Kiffin not using other schemes, the simple fact is that we don't have any information about other coverages.


There may be some disparities between our understanding of these terms and Kiffin's meaning in using them, so let's also take a look at Kiffin's zone definitions.


Some points of interest: you'll note that not all coverages described are shown in the diagram, and not all coverages on the diagram are described. I did not create the diagram, so I can only say I'm sorry for the discrepancies.

Now, let's move back to the Over 2 coverage. We are presented with two possible alignments, standard and twins, that call for base defensive personnel.

The safeties have outside half responsibilities in both cases. The middle linebacker has his option between midfield and the deep third, an area in which most of us expect Sean Lee to excel. Both corners are playing cloud coverage, which is a softer zone technique reliant on safety help that, we hope, should present more ballhawking, route jumping, playmaking action for our corners.

The remaining two linebackers differ in responsibilities based on the formation. In the event of a slot formation, the strong side of the formation is the side with two receivers! The tight end does not determine the strength of the formation. In the modern NFL, we care more about passing threats than running threats, thus the terminology is re-worked. Now, noting the positioning of the Sam on the slot receiver, you can see that he has slot responsibilities. To complement this, the Will picks up hook responsibilities near the tight end.

Against a standard set, the Sam linebacker has hook responsibilities while the Will plays the curl. The reason that the right side remains strong is likely due to the Fullback not being considered a legitimate receiving threat, while the halfback and X receiver are very much threats, trumping the second WR and the TE.

Anyway, you'll notice the notes below the formations contain phrases like "Check Pirate" and "Buck call." These refer to the line stunts that I described in my previous article on the subject. Certain offensive shifts have counter-calls built into the defense. These types of built-in reads evolve over time, and it's very likely, especially with the spread of the read option offense, that the defense we see in 2013 will feature a vastly different set of these reaction calls and reads.

Finally, we have one more page describing post-play reads.


There are a number of abbreviations used here, so I'll explain.

Align is the alignment of the player. This is in reference to the line technique numbers (explained in a previous article), or landmarks such as the LOS (line of scrimmage) or various offensive players.

Key, not an abbreviation, is the offensive player that the defender is supposed to be reacting to, in order of precedence.

Resp represents responsibilities of the player, typically a route to defend against.

C.P. is the coaching point - a footnote containing some helpful information (likely tailored to the players on the team at the time) to remember assignments or resolve ambiguities in the responsibility.

Bootleg is the players' new responsibility once the quarterback leaves the pocket and becomes a running threat. Some defenses leave the quarterback unaccounted for - it appears this is not one of those defenses.

Flood is the reaction to numerous receivers crossing the field in the same direction, meant to destroy zone responsibilities.

Flow and Fire are additional reads that the defenders must make, again striving to eliminate obvious weaknesses in the scheme.

The table at the bottom lists a number of formations and pre-snap shifts that the opposing offense might make - in this case, it appears meaningless, as the second row says "Play it" in every case.

It is regrettable that I do not have any additional information about Monte Kiffin's coverages - especially because the "Tampa 2" is known best for it's 2-deep coverage schemes. I will continue to hunt for information.

There are a number of topics yet to be covered in this Inside Monte Kiffin's Playbook series. What do you want to see next?

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