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Covering the Flats

What's a good D to run to cover people who always toss to the flats? I keep getting burned by a lot of slots.


  • There are a lot of good defenses that cover the flats... Some are good as stock plays, others need a little adjusting. The trick is to figure out if and when you need to cover the flat, and how many defenders you need to commit to that job.

    If your opponent is going to the flat (outside the numbers and about 0-3 yards from the line of scrimmage, you can call any Cover 2 defense with HARD FLATS in the title. Your cornerbacks will give you the best mix of speed and agility in that flat and any INT has a good chance to go to the house.

    If your opponent is hitting a slot receiver, you may want to start your flat defender from the SEAM (between the numbers and hashes) and work outward, which might call for a Cover 3 with the coverage adjusted to take away UNDERNEATH throws.

    If your opponent is attacking deeper on the outside, a hard flat zone might not be what you need at all. You might need a SOFT SQUAT, CLOUD FLAT, CURL/FLAT, QUARTER FLAT, or a SEAM FLAT. Read this description of what each zone is designed to do: Gridiron Notes: Zone Coverage

    Armed with those zone assignments, you'll then have to decide whether you want to commit to defending both flats, or just on one side. Most players attack the flat on the wide side of the field because they have more room AND it gives them more time to look at other receivers before going to the check down (assuming it's not their first read). So you may be able to assign a player to the one flat, while you ignore the flat on the short side.

    If you opponent throws late to the flats, it's probably because the flat receiver is the 2nd or 3rd read in their progression. If that is the case, don't feel like you have to have your flat defender in the flat the entire time. He only needs to be in the flat when the ball goes to the flat. When a late flat defender is required, feel free to use a SKY coverage that inverts and sends a safety to the flat instead of a linebacker or a corner. If you base align, the safety arrives to an area that looks open when your opponent winds up only to have a defender in position for a pick or a break up once the ball arrives.

    Hope this helps,

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