One of the most frustrating things about the Ravens season was the inability of their receivers to beat man coverage. When a defense can blanket your receivers and no one gets open this allows them to be more creative in rushing the passer. Pass protection was a real problem for Baltimore. The Ravens need to work on more consistently beating man coverage.
1.) Identify coverage before the snap.
It seems like common sense but it is something that offenses can struggle with. You need to be able to have an educated guess of what coverage the defense is in.
First the quarterback should check the depth and alignment of the safeties. This often leads you to what shell the defense is playing. It is also important to count how many people are in the box. If you see 8 or more people in the box, the offense should typically be in a pass play, for example.
Next the quarterback and receivers should notice the positioning of the corners. Generally speaking if the corner’s butt is to the sideline and he is turned to the QB he is playing zone. If he is facing the receiver he is likely in man.
The defense knows this is easy to read and they wisely try to trick the offense at the line with movement and alignment.
Pre Snap motions are a great way to determine if a team is in man to man or zone. If a receiver or tight end motions and a defender moves with him across the field this indicates man coverage. The defender could stay and it could still be man if the defense switched who was covering the receiver after the motion.
2.) Crossing routes
Crossing routes make corners chase receivers across the field. It is often easier for receivers to stretch man coverage with crossing routes than it is to beat a man deep. This also creates traffic for the corner. Quarterbacks who are patient enough for one of the crossing routes to become open can really make defenses pay for man coverage.
3.) Bunch formations/ Stacking WR’s
Stacked receivers create trouble for man coverage. They have to give the receiver cushion off the line. It is hard to align in tight man coverage. If the routes cross defenders have to know what to do; this often involves switching who has who.
This is where savvy route concepts come into play. One if the receivers can set a pick or rub (whatever you want to call it) to give another receiver time to get open. This is technically illegal but is never called on the offense.
4.) Clear Out Routes/ QB Run
If defenders are in man coverage you can clear them out of the play. In man defensive backs move with the wide receivers. If all the receivers go down the field so do the defenders playing them in man coverage. This can often open up a running back or a tight end underneath.
If the secondary defenders backs are turned to the QB while running with receivers down the field; this sets up opportunities for quarterbacks to make plays with their legs. When a quarterback can pick up an easy ten yards with his legs it beats man coverage.
5.) Sluggos, Out and Up Routes, Double Move Routes.
Defense is very big on the read and react concept. Corners try to jump in front of routes they expect to see. A sluggo (Slant & Go) is my favorite route. The corner reacts to the slant, once he bites the receiver flys down the field for the Go portion of the route. Double moves are a good way to beat anticipating defensive backs.
These are just some simple strategies to employ about man coverage. There is much more that can be discussed. This is just an overview of what can be done from from a strategic standpoint to beat man coverage.