Understanding Coverages: Cover 1 Man (“Man Free”)

15 Sep

Cover 1 man / Man-to-man with Free Safety help.

This coverage is man-to-man underneath with a Free Safety (FS ) sitting in centerfield to help over the top.

The pre-snap read (PSR) is based on the alignment of the Corners (Cs) and Linebackers (M, W and S) on the receivers. The C’s will be head up or in an outside alignment because they have help from the FS. This allows the C’s to take away the outs.

Also, if the Strong Safety (SS) aligns head up on his eligible receiver at a tight to normal depth (four to six [4-6] yards) and the FS is deeper than normal (twelve to fifteen [12-15] yards), this will confirm the “Man Free” coverage.

The Linebackers will have the backs man-to-man. The Quarterback (QB) should anticipate pressure from a five (5) man rush, with the possibility of the defense bringing seven (7). The QB must identify whether a blitz is coming and throw the ball to the defenders vacated spot (i.e., “hot read”) or add protection with an audible.


  1. Pressure from a five (5) man rush
  2. every potential receiver is accounted for (covered)
  3. defenders have help to the post • excellent versus screens and delays
  4. C’s can play a tight man as they have help from the FS – crowd the receivers on third and five or longer
  5. excellent versus zone routes
  6. can take away the outs with an outside technique by the C’s
  7. speed on speed – good blitz coverage

– Weaknesses

  1. Poor run support
  2. mismatch with the backs versus linebackers
  3. hard to disguise versus motion
  4. three deep zones are not covered
  5. no under cover • crossing routes
  6. “bunch” and “snug” type sets

– How to attack it

  1. Back routes on the linebackers
  2. create mismatches with the TE running option (“read”) routes
  3. stay shallow with routes, catch the ball short and run long
  4. crossing routes (“mesh”) with the wide receivers
  5. TE in the alley or fades to the wide receivers
  6. running plays
  7. coverage away from FS by “looking off”

With special thanks to Ron Jenkins from TopGun QB/Receiver Academy for his insight and illustration: http://topgunqbacademy.com/


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