How to Coach Quarters Coverage

I have been wanting to do something different for a while and finally got to it today. This is a narrated a power point on the Quarters Coverage checks. It is a 10 minute video on the main checks that we have for the Quarters Coverage.

Quarters is a great coverage to run behind 7-man front defenses like the 4-3 Defense or the 3-4 Defense. In fact, it is the coverage that I talk about using in my book, Installing Football’s 4-3 Over Defensive Front.

You will find a transcript of this video below.

Much of this stuff was stolen from Quarters Coverage Made Simple by Shap Boyd. That video is all you need to install Quarters Coverage (not an affiliate link, I don’t get a dime there).

Hope this video is helpful to you. If this seems like your kind of thing, be sure to subscribe to my RSS Feed to receive updates through Google Reader or your e-mail address on new posts.I also want to announce that on Wednesday, December 8th, I’ll be making a new free eBook available. It is titled “Defensive Installation Manual” and goes through the entire process of changing your defense or installing a defense at a new program. If you’re thinking about changing, or even tweaking, your defense you’ll want to take a look at it!Transcript of Quarters Coverage Checks video

Hi, this is Joe from Football and I’m going to talk to you today about the Quarters coverage and some of the checks that we use with it.

A little bit about the Quarters package we used in the past out of the 4-3 defense with 2 high safeties. That will also work well with 3-4, again with two high safeties. It can be adapted to the other defends like 4-2-5. Allows us to adjust our coverage package to almost any formation without changing call from the sidelines. Takes a lot of thought and pressure of the Defensive Coordinator.

Strong and free safety’s make checks to their own sides. You can actually come out with a huge number of formations just because both sides are independent of each other. We want safeties to be confident making the checks on the field. We are never going to jump on them for making the wrong check, and let them know that every check will work because as long as everybody does their responsibility every check will work against every formation. However, I would like them to know that the right check to put us in the best position to cover the offense.

curlflat_vs_quartersBase check is the read check, this is the one to make one or no receivers removed. It’s our strongest run support cover; this is one that we think a lot just to get 8 or 9 men in the box. We are using our safeties and; it is sort of a robber coverage.

Our safeties are the run force players so your front seven are all trying to spill the ball to the outside. On the run read your safeties are flying up and boxing the play there.

So our safety is going to align outside shade of the number two receiver. Or in this case end man on the line of scrimmage, the Tackle, with only one receiver removed. He is going to be 8 to 10 yard off the ball, going be as tight as he can as tight he can, as tight as his speed and athleticism will allow.

He reads through the line of scrimmage to the quarterback. Look at end man for a run/pass read. He is going to bounce, bounce in place two steps; before he does anything. So he gives two bounces before he is going to go anywhere. That’s his read step there. Real simple to teach, no back pedal or anything like that for his read.

He reads #2 Receiver, on the pass read he gets over the top of the #2 Receiver. If two goes vertical or if two goes inside; stay on the top of him. If two doesn’t go vertical, he’s looking to get underneath the number one. We need to get double coverage on number one. If number two goes down inside fast like a tight end we’re going to jump to number one. And we’re going to get underneath number one with the safety over top of the one with the corner.

The corner is going to be in the outside shade of number one 6-8 yard, it is 7-9 here but we tightened them up a little bit. Stay over the top of number one at all times, unless he runs a “Now” shallow cross inside. If he does that there is no reason for a corners stay of the top of him, we’re looking for something coming back inside, playing off deep.

The outside linebacker, in this case the Will backer, is going to drop outside of number two. This is the more important to tight end for you to get outside of two. He may not have any help there if the corner is taken away by post. And the safety is not going to honor that either. Will needs to get outside to the flat fast. He is not technically a flat player, we don’t want him sprinting out the flat but use the outside too.

The alert check is made with two receiver’s removed. Alert tells us there’s two fast receivers out there, two guys removed, two guys in position to go vertical now. It’s a soft cover two look.

The outside line backer becomes run force. He is going to split different between the end man line of scrimmage and number two receiver.

Safety is going to align inside shade of number two and now he is off 12 of 14 yards. It’s a deep half player now, again reading the number 2 is receiver here, his read doesn’t change the whole lot. He’s still looking for number two to go vertical.

Number two goes vertical he got to get over top of them. If two does not go vertical, two goes in or out then safety needs to find what number 1 is doing. He has got to stay deeper than anybody on his half of the field. And if one gone vertical it’s going to be over top of him.

Corner is going to play 4 to 6 yards outside shade of number one and he’s going to funnel him down inside. Squeeze him down. Try to keep his eyes through number one, on number two.

If one goes down inside he’s not going to chase him. He is just going to back off and pick up number two coming outside into the flats. So again, soft cover two look here, our outside linebacker, the Sam backer here, walls number two on a pass read, expands to one, making sure that two doesn’t cross his face to the inside without getting bumped. And again trying to funnel everything to that deep safety.

And again the Sam, the outside linebacker on the alert side, is the force player on the run read. Your safety back playing deep half and can’t be part of base run stop at this point.

Flat is a variation of alert. Flat is something that we use when we have a threat of the number two receiver being aligned less than seven yard removed and he is in the position we think to run to the flats now. When we’re wanting to get to the corner to be a little more aggressive.

Does not change a whole lot off of the alert, but all we’re going to do is we’re going to tell, basically tell the corner that if two goes flat he’s going to jump him now and let one go as we should be more aggressive playing a flat route by number two when we make a flat check.

Really doesn’t change much for the safety. I think that you can tend to over coach him by telling him anything more than just “this is alert for you.” You see this alignment is alert for you, its alert for the Sam linebacker, the outside line backer, and the only different is that the corner is going jump that out route now.

I think this is not to third coverage that you install. I think you gotta have alert and you gotta have read this is one when you get more sophisticated, you can use it.

Cloud, another coverage that you may not always use. Its coverage we would use, it’s a hard cover two and one that personally I would only use with the tight end and the slot in to the boundary where we can, we got a short field and really want that corner to be involved as the true run support.

The safety is going be playing a deep half so it’s not really different for him. Not much different than he play on alert he’s going to align outside the number two.

The corner is going to be outside shade in a press technique on number one squeezing him inside, eyes on number two. He is the run force player and this allows you to keep your OLB in the box.

You could just as easily play read here and let you safety to be the run force player. It is just a different look and one that if something your corners are adapted to. If you are already teaching press man coverage to the corner basically you have the technique down. It is just another look that you can use.

Nothing really changes for the outside linebacker in cloud from alert.

Clue is something that we use, it is an important coverage check because we want to be able to not to pull against doubles formation. We don’t want to pull both outside linebackers out of the box and leave a four one box with just a Mike backer in there, playing alert to both sides.

So clue is essentially a man coverage, a match-up coverage here where both the safety and the corner reading number two. If the safety reads number two going vertical or in he takes him, locks on a man coverage.

If he goes out the safety goes to number one and the corner takes number two. We work something called a vertical line rule with both our alert check and the clue check. And it applies here that when those two guys cross we switch them off between the safety and the corner.

The OLB doesn’t walk out on clue check because he’s going stay in the box, the whole purpose is to make the checks and keep him in the box.

Swap is the check we make, we’re going to swap down the safety. This is one we run a lot. When we have nub to one side, a nub tight end, we’ll swap the safety and the corner.

Align the safety up in the three by three alignment play like a traditional overhang safety. Let the corner play a deep half player back there.

We’re going to wall number one with the OLB.

Survivor is the last check we’re going to look at. Survivor is used against Trips.

We use this for a backside corner who is going to be on an island, we tell him. It’s going to be one on one with the number one receiver backside of the trips. We’re going to play alert check to the front side number one and number two receiver, we tell them that number three is just the number two receiver from the other side walked over, so you don’t worry about it.

Make a survivor call, the front side safety sees the three receivers, he hollers across to the backside safety “Survivor, Survivor, Survivor!” The backside safety relays that call to corner and let him know that he’s in man coverage.

Only thing that changes at all in coverage are for the Mike in a survivor call is going to get underneath of number three.

Backside corner has got man coverage. Free safety rolls late over the top, we want him to get to the trip side B gap before the snap. He has got to be in the position to jump a vertical by number three receiver when the ball is snapped. That is his biggest concern. He should be in the great position for the post with the Mike getting in underneath it. He is just going to jump a vertical there at all cost.

Those are main checks that we’re going to use in the Quarters coverage. I hope this has given you an idea of several things you can do out with this coverage. We really enjoyed talking to you today and would love you to come over to Take a look at our website there and all the defense we have to offer you there.


  • Pingback: Putting the Pressure On with Press Quarters Coverage | Joe Daniel Football()

  • Pingback: Prevent Defense or “Prevent the Win” Defense? | Joe Daniel Football()

  • Pingback: Football Quarters Coverage | Football Collection()

  • porn today

    Candis, Due to the fact I’m on a fixed income along with the only
    places I can shop are places with grocery carts, my main retail therapy is the book aisle at
    Walmart. Naturally, being a major bibliophile, that genuinely is retail therapy for me!


    The cattlemen and slaves equally received pieces
    including brisket for their dinners. Outdoor apparel companies
    realize the wants of the outside individual and also have produced distinctive technology in clothing that keep
    you dried and breeze-facts without sacrificing comfort.

  • Pingback: Football Quarters Camfrog | Camfrog()

  • Coach Daniel

    Terry, Zone It is kind of a prevent coverage. There is no pattern reading, the 2 corners and 2 safeties are simply playing deep 1/4 zones – basically get deep, don’t let anything get behind you.

    Underneath it becomes a spot drop. Zone It is basically a spot drop Cover 4.

  • TerryWalker

    What is your adjustment on the “zone it” call in Quarters coverage?

  • Pingback: Coaching the 3-5-3 Defense with Quarters Coverage | Football-Defense Report()

  • Coach Daniel

    Coach, we do one of two things. We can either gap exchange, where the Will Backer walks out and makes an “Echo” call to the Defensive End (which tells our end to cut inside), or we do not walk the Will backer out.

    Most of the time, our Will does not leave the box. He has a max 2 yard split from the EMOLS. When we first teach the coverage it is during 7 on 7, so the Will and the Sam can play it the same on both sides. Once we’re in season, our base rule is that the Will goes no more than 2 and the Sam goes no more than 5 outside the end man.

  • Tommy Acklin

    When the weak side OLB walks out on number 2 to his side (and there are 2 backs), is there a gap exchange with him and the DE? My reason for asking is because some offenses will do this to run a B gap attack such as Isolation.

  • Pingback: Coaching the 4-3 Defense: The Basics | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: Coaching the Under Front Defense Book Review | Football-Defense Report()

  • Joe

    Thanks a lot Coach, i’m going to have to take a closer look at that one!

  • DC

    Coach, thanks for the video.

    Our programme has an added check we find very useful to your quarters package. Vs Trips we have an “attack” check which pulls our Sam backer over to #3 reciever playing a press. Our Buck backer now in a 3-3 stack plays the wall. We found that this was very useful against teams attempting to isolate a big play threat on the single side of tthe field as we are able to play read on the back side vs trips.

  • Pingback: Defending Trips Formations with the 4-3 Defense | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: Simple Communication of Routes in Pattern Reading | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: Containing the Quarterback on the Bootleg with the 4-3 Defense | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: 4-2-5 Defense Quarters Coverage | Football-Defense Report()

  • Joe

    If you were going to implement the Quarters, it should be fine – just keep it real simple. I would use Read, Alert and a Trips check (Survivor or the 1/4, 1/4, 1/2) and go with it. Nothing fancy.

  • CoachB

    No, I have not looked at that one yet. But, you have my interest up! I am going to be the Head Coach at my Middle School next year and really want to see if we can do this. Also, I am the DC for one of the Eastbay Youth All-American Games this coming January and I want to put this in there to see how the kids pick it up. Now, keeping in mind that we only have 5 practices to get ready to play and we will see nothing but spread, trips, etc….how should I go about this to give them the best opportunity to succeed? You can e-mail me at THANKS!!!!

  • Joe

    We made a lot of changes as far as going to more of a true zone drop instead of pattern reading, and I’m not sure it was the best thing for us. Still sorting out the coverage changes. Have you looked at the Dominating Football Defense with the Zone Blitz eBook yet?

  • CoachB


    By the way……I did get your book and it has been helpful. I would like to see more of your Blitz stuff if possible. Also, more info on the changes that you say that you are going to make in coverages.

    Thanks Again!

  • Joe

    Coach, I think the clip with the Sam away from the TE was just a mistake when I made it, though some teams do align strength to multiple receivers. We would normally have Sam on the TE side. Alert would be to the wide side of the field or to the Left (if QB is right handed) against Doubles, unless game plan dictates differently

  • CoachB

    Coach- I am very interested in your checks out of Cover 4 but one thing is confusing to me. In the Quarters Coverage Checks video you show the TE side being the strong side most of the time but in the “Alert” and “Clue” you have the Sam lined up away from the TE side? Was that intentional? Also, when you get “Spread” or “Dubs” how do you determine which side would be the “CLUE” side and whic side is “ALERT”?


  • Pingback: Michigan State 4-3 Defense DVD Review | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: Defending the Air Raid ‘Mesh’ Concept | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: Quarters Coverage (Cover 4) | Football-Defense Report()

  • Pingback: How to Use the 4-3 Defense to Defend the Twins Formation | Football-Defense Report()

  • Devin

    We are a 35/cover 3 defense…so we pretty much stick to cover 3….we did get into a 2 high look with some success and roll to 3 on motion…

  • Pingback: Changes at | Football-Defense Report()

  • Joe

    Thanks Devin. Quarters is great against the option offense.

    Against the flexbone you should be able to walk your safeties up to 7 or 8 yards, outside shade of the wings. Depending on their passing game, you may just want to lock the corners down on the outside receivers.

    The safeties are reading the EMOLS, the Tackles usually, for high hat/low hat. On the snap they bounce two steps and read. If they get run, they’re flying up to box the play. On high hat they’re probably covering the wings. You could also read the wings, but the Tackles are probably an easier read.

    If you search for Flexbone you’ll see another way to defend it with the 4-3, rolling up one safety and playing a one-high look where the single high safety can run the alley.

    What have you used to defend them in the past?

  • Devin

    Very nice job on the video! I have been studying Quarters coverage for a while now and feel confident about the pass coverage aspect of it…

    However…and it maybe because I am over thinking it…I have not fully grasped how to get two safeties involved in the run game…

    What are the “rules” for the safeties when they get a run read??? How do you determine the run-fits??

    The best team in our conference/division is a “Navy/GT” style offense and would love to hear how to use quarters coverage against the run game…

  • Joe

    Ha, thanks, glad it worked. Hope you enjoy it. You caught me while I’m working on it. I know there’s a way to work in the background but I am learning one thing at a time.

    I’ll be putting the Under Front on my Christmas list!

  • Dee Jones

    Joe disregard the error, it worked.

  • Dee Jones


    I tried to sign up for the subscription but there is an error when confirming the link.

    To your question, I say buy it. I brought it when it came out and it is very good and worth the money. I used some of it during the season and a lot of his concepts make sense in real situations.

  • Joe

    Duece, thanks! Its probably a little big for an e-mail? I had no idea it was going to be so long, the first draft was 17 minutes.

    Dee, absolutely makes sense. Is that Jerry Gordon’s book on the Under Front? It has been sitting in my cart at for months, how is it?

  • Dee Jones

    From what I read it is to make the throw high and with air. Both work well. I coached both inside and outside shade however I always used outside shade when playing cover 2. In cover 4 I played inside shade mostly because I felt the QBs we played could not throw out routes with consistency and it gave my DBs a better chance to stay in phase with the wide outs, use the sideline for help, and get picks as the wide out would have to out rebound the corner sort to speak. The book I am referring to is a book on the Under front and some of the same calls were used.

  • Duece

    How can I get that video in a downloadable form???? 😀 Good stuff coach, kee it comin’!


  • Joe

    Dee, the corners have inside help from the safeties. In read check, unless the TE goes vertical the Safety is going to take the inside hip of #1 and the corner stays over top. In alert, the corner also has the deep help inside from the safety. The corner and OLB are funneling everything to him. Everything else is based off of those. What is the reasoning that other coaches are playing inside shade? Thanks!

  • Dee Jones

    Coach I noticed you play your corners outside shade in quarters. Other coaches who run quarters subscribe to placing the corners inside shade. What is your philosophy on the corner placement?

  • Joe

    Good point on the alignment. I didn’t want to give the safeties too overthink, so wanted to have as few changes from check to check as possible. We did change their alignment to the hash at times, but we didn’t use Flat much. Good idea on having him split the difference if it is a check you will use a lot. Thanks for reading!

  • hturner3280

    In the “Flat” check, it says that that the SS should treat it like “Alert” check and align 12-14 yards with an inside shade on #2. However, in the diagram for “Flat” check, it looks like the SS is splitting the difference between #1 and #2. Is the diagram incorrect? I ask because I think that if the removed receiver was to the wide side of the field and #2 was only 3-4 yds removed and ran an immediate flat/shoot route while #1 ran a go/fade, it could be a problem for the SS to get all the way to the sideline to stay over the top of #1. How would you treat this situation? Do you have divider rules? Thanks for all your time and effort with the site.