Friday, October 1, 2010


This is the first of a 3-Part series. This series is about the basics behind bracketing and the two main types that are usually employed. Part II will expand on some different variations and explain the run support principals. Finally, Part III will cover some read brackets that resemble match-up zone.


Bracket coverage is designed to create double coverage on a single receiver. There are multiple types of brackets and various reasons to use them. The starting point for bracket coverage is to begin with its place in football.

The two main coverage families in football are zone and man. Between these two families are many voids that coaches have attempted to and are still in the process of filling. The major attempt by many coaches has been seen in the evolution of match up-zone and pattern reading. The other attempt has been bracket coverage. To better understand its place consider the pros and cons of man and zone coverage.


+Close coverage
+Disrupts timing
+eliminates throwing lanes

-Personnel mismatches
-Receivers can run off Defenders on run plays
-vulnerable to the deep ball
-Weak versus the option


+Good for run and pass situations
+Protects against the deep ball
+Able to read the QB and break on the ball

-QB has many throwing windows
- Offenses will attack over stressed flat defenders
- You are either weak vertically or underneath.

In zone you are going to have holes in the short/intermediate or deep zones, you cannot eliminate all areas. In man you are gonna match-up problems and have trouble covering routes run away from the defenders man leverage. (ie. Inside man versus the 10 and out.) Also, a route that creates problems for both man and zone coverages is the 10-15 yard bend-in (Dig). These routes create problems that need solutions, while at the same time keeping the defense as a whole sound versus the run. Bracket coverage has the ability to defend these problem routes, eliminate mismatches, and remain sound versus the run.

The Positives to Bracket Coverage

1. Ability to double cover a good WR (eliminate mismatch)
2. Ability to leverage underneath and deep routes effectively.
3. Can involve simple and solid run support rules.


There are two types of bracket coverage concepts:

1. Under/Over (Vertical Bracket)
2. In/Out (Horizontal Bracket)


I have discussed examples of under and over brackets in a previous post. Essentially One person is in a trail technique covering any underneath break (inside and outside), with another person over the top providing deep support. Here a couple examples:

These are called vertical brackets Because the WR is sandwiched over and under. One man will stay low and in front while the other stays high and behind. The strength in this type of bracket is the ability to stay under any route without having to worry about getting beat deep.


In/out brackets provide horizontal leverage on a WR. One defender will cover him inside and up the other will work and outside and up. This type of coverage is easy to disguise and can be employed on any receiver. To illustrate this coverage, I will use some of Nick Saban's calls for in/out coverage and some key coaching points.

If Coach Saban wants to double the #1 WR in and out with a corner and he safety he will call "CONE".

Versus a vertical route by the WR, both players essentially cover him inside and out eliminating any mismatch.

The technique of each player is crucial. If the WR runs an inside cut, the "IN" defender must play the route aggressively and take it away. In this situation the "OUT" defender would work over the top of the route and provide deep support for the "IN" defender.

If the WR breaks outside the roles would reverse. With the "OUT" defender aggressively covering the WR while the "IN" defender works to provide over the top support.

The over the top leveraging on a horizontal break is the key to allowing the other defender to play aggressive. This makes the double move routes not a concern.

In part II I will cover slot,TE, and RB brackets in addition to discussing the run play in this type of coverage.


  1. Part 2...Please and thanks....

  2. Its in progress will be done soon

  3. Excellent! Can the cone coverage be found in Saban's LSU playbook?

  4. It is impressive that there are many thing behind bracket like this one. Those different strategies can make a huge impact in the game and it can be reflected in cost per head

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  6. What about a combination involving bracket coverage and a match up zone concept? I think Saban's cone concept is susceptible to a west coast dink and dunk style.