Why the Secondary is of Primary Importance

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The secondary is one of the most misunderstood parts of the defense and usually the most criticized. When a receiver makes a catch downfield, many fans are quick to blame the closest defensive back, as if teams are always in man coverage, or to holler about too big of a cushion being given to a wideout. It is much more difficult to tell who is at fault when there is no pass rush, or when a gap assignment is blown by the linebackers.

In this article, I will offer an outline of what the Virginia defensive backs are required to do in the 3-4 defense and how UVa’s personnel fits within those schemes.

Overall Scheme

Tony Franklin

It’s interesting that I am writing this article following the Florida State game since I saw some posts complaining about Virginia’s two-deep zone and its ineffectiveness in stopping the Seminole offense. The Cover 2 is the basic coverage used by the UVa defense. As you may already know, this means that the safeties cover the deep right and deep left of the field. The goal is to avoid big plays by the opposing offense. In the Cover 2, the linebackers and cornerbacks are responsible for acting together to cover the underneath and intermediate routes.

Another coverage that the Cavaliers use is the Cover 3. The Cover 3 drops a cornerback into a 3-deep zone to join the safeties. The Cover 3 means that the three deep players have smaller zones to cover and reduces holes in the deep zone. The linebackers and remaining corner are still responsible for covering underneath.

Man coverage is also used by the Virginia defense and is used more or less depending on the opponent, the game plan and the matchups for the week. There are plenty of options built into the defense to allow any amount of adjustments to counter the opponent’s personnel and schemes.

There are a few other coverages that Virginia uses that are slightly more rare. Sometimes the linebackers are responsible for covering the seam routes, allowing defensive backs to blitz, and in other cases