Eastern Washington’s Squat and Kathy Cover 2 Techniques

Eastern Washington University prides itself on being a defensive football team, often finding itself in the thick of the FCS playoffs each season. The Eagles are primarily a Quarters coverage team that mixes in Cover 2 and Zone Pressures out of a 4-3 Front. Eastern Washington’s cornerbacks coach Cherokee Valeria sat down with X&O Labs Mike Kuchar to talk about the two ways in which he teaches his corners to play Cover Two, a “Kathy” technique and a “Squat” technique. According to Valeria, he uses those techniques based on what type of Cover 2 you’re going to be playing. “If we play true five underneath and two over the top, we will play a Soft technique which we call ‘Kathy,’” said Valeria. “If we’re going to be playing four underneath with a middle hole run through defender, we will play a Hard technique which we call ‘Squat.’”

Coach Valeria explains what the difference is between his Soft and Hard techniques: “When we say we are going to play a Soft technique, we mean that the technique will be executed with little to no planned physical contact. When we say we are going to play a Hard technique, we are telling the cornerbacks that we are going to physically attack the wide receiver with this technique. It’s the same idea behind playing Hard and Soft bump coverage.”

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Techniques

Kathy Technique Strengths:

  • Easy eye progression, with run/pass keys coming directly from the quarterback’s release from center. This allows a quicker run fit by the cornerback on bubbles, screens, and run action to him.
  • Allows cornerbacks to sink quicker with vertical routes, particularly against four verticals.

Kathy Technique Weaknesses:

  • No physical re-routes: Wide receivers may get clean releases.
  • Weakness: Angle Walk pushes Corner further away from the quick slant.

Squat Technique Strengths:

  • Physically disrupting the release of the wide receiver and, in turn, the timing of an offensive pass play. 
  • Staying “on cliff” (without backing up) allows the cornerback to insert himself faster against the quick pass game.

Squat Technique Weaknesses: 

  • Often late on outside run actions and bubbles. 
  • Harder to defend the hole shot between the corner and the Cover 2 safety. 

Quarterback Keys:

Before we address the specific techniques behind both coverages, Valeria teaches his players to key the QB for four specific reads post-snap:

  • 3-Step Read: QB takes three-step drop from under center, or one step drop from shotgun alignments.
  • 5-Step Read: QB takes five-step drop from under center, or three step drop from shotgun alignments.
  • Run action towards the corner.
  • Run action away from corner.

The corners responses are predicated on these three reactions. All of these reads have corresponding techniques that will be addressed in this clinic report. We will begin with Kathy technique. 

Kathy Technique

Philosophy of Base Cover 2: 

Base Cover 2 is a soft cover two coverage where the corners could be soft on the outside while allowing the linebackers to be hard on the inside. According to Valeria, this coverage is based off down and distance. “Any time we are hard on the outside with the corners, the backers will be soft and the safeties could expand on the hash,” said Valeria. “Any time the corners play soft, the outside backers play hard while the safeties can hold the hash.” 

In base Cover 2, the corners are expected to play a softer technique where they can backpedal out and have the safeties hold their hash. “We don’t believe we need to physically be ‘on the cliff’ and reroute receivers in cover two if it’s third and fifteen,” said Valeria. “We’d rather play more of a softer coverage and back pedal out and sink with vertical releases. This allows the safeties to hold their hash and be able to defend four verticals.”

Alignment: 

  • Alignment is 7x1 (seven yards off number one receiver, one yard inside).
  • Square: Inside stagger stance.
  • He will have the flat and force in the run game. 

Primary & Secondary Keys:

  • Pre-snap eyes through the EMLOS to the QB.  
  • Primary key is the QB’s release from center (as explained above in QB Keys).  
  • Verses a Pass Read: His eyes will then transfer to number two for his secondary key. This will help him determine his final responsibility.

Technique Progression (Walk – Exit – Sink – QB):

  1. Angle Walk: This is a three-step walk executed at the snap of the ball, where the cornerback walks with a 45-degree angle towards the sideline with his eyes focused on his primary key (EMLOS to the QB).  
  2. Exit: This is an open hinge step to a vertical shuffle that is used to transition between a corner’s walk and before he sinks. It’s at this point where the cornerback’s eyes will transfer to his secondary key (QB). 
  3. Sink: Usually a vertical crossover run with a particular leverage on a wide receiver.
  4. QB: Valeria explains, “In zone coverage, we ultimately need to get our eyes back to the QB. He will always give us our final finish angle.”

QB Key = 3-Step:

  • If he gets three-step drop, he plants and drives to the number one receiver.

QB Key = 5-Step:

  • If it’s a five-step drop by the QB, the cornerback will transition out of his angle walk and into his Exit. Once he goes into his vertical shuffles he then reads the release of number two.  


    • If two goes vertical, he’s vertical on number one. 
    • If two goes out, he jumps the out of number two, but does so on the tone of the QB which means quarterback demeanor and not release of ball. “That’s the biggest thing to teach the corners,” said Valeria. “He doesn’t jump the out right now because a great QB will read that corner and hit the hole shot right behind him.” Valeria explains this concept, “remember, in this coverage the safeties are holding the hash and leveraging the inside vertical threat. Therefore, if the inside receiver comes on the out, I want the cornerback to get their eyes back to the QB to read his tone before coming off. If the quarterback’s tone stays high, he stays high. If the quarterback’s tone goes to the sideline, he’s down to the sideline.” 
    • If number two goes in, the corner is allowed to trail off and rob underneath number one. “If two goes in, he has all the help of the world on number one. That’s when I tell them they can be aggressive to the ball in the air and make plays.” 

QB Key = Run To: 

  • The corner must fire right now, but Valeria gives them an opportunity to either work outside the block or knife inside the block of the receiver. “I give them freedom to use both,” said Valeria. “Our field corner may have a little bit more freedom because if he goes inside, there is enough room for him to dip, rip and climb and set the edge. My boundary corner doesn’t have that luxury.”

QB Key = Run Away:

  • Anytime run action presents itself, there is a threat of boot or play action pass back towards the corner. The corner’s eyes will go from his primary key to number two to his side for boot (slam release possibility). If the wide receiver is on a route, the cornerback knows that the run key was false and to expect PAP/boot back to him. If the wide receiver is on a block path, then the corner knows the run key was true and then will work his leverage back on the ball carrier. Taking away reverse, cutback, and then insurance.  

Kathy Technique Drill Work

Coverage: Cover 2 

Technique: Kathy 

Drill Name: Angle Walk – Chatter

Objective:

  • To read the quarterback’s initial release from center and fire your feet on a visual key.

Procedure:

  • The defensive backs will start with an inside stagger stance.


    • On the coach’s command the DB’s will back pedal walk at a 45 degree angle towards the sideline, while maintaining their eyes on the QB Key.
    • After their third read step, the coach will give them a visual key (opening his hands). Once seeing the visual key, the players will chatter their feet and sink their hips.

Key Coaching Points: 

  • Eyes on your 1° Key: quarterback 
  • Stance is relaxed with weight over your toes
  • Initial movement is slow and under control
  • Hips stay low in the athletic position throughout the drill
  • Feet never leave the framework of your body

Next Step:

  • Angle Walk - Exit

To see video of the Angle Walk Chatter drill, click on the link below:

Coverage: Cover 2

Technique: Kathy

Drill Name: Angle Walk – Exit – Sink — QB

Objective: 

  • To read the quarterback’s initial release from center and transition through the technique, ultimately reading the QB’s tone and firing on his final key.

Procedure:

  • The defensive backs will start with an inside stagger stance.
  • On the coach’s command, the DBs will back pedal walk at a 45 degree angle towards the sideline, while maintaining their eyes on the QB Key.
  • After their third read step, the coach will give them a visual key (tone of his shoulders). Once seeing the visual key, the players will execute an inside open hinge step and transition into two vertical shuffles before going into a cross-over run.
  • Defensive backs will read the tone of the coach’s shoulders. If his tone stays high (fade route), the DBs will maintain their crossover run. If the coaches shoulders go from a high tone to a low and outwards down towards the sideline (out route), the DBs will plant with their up-field foot and drive back down towards the sideline.

Key Coaching Points: 

  • Eyes on your 1° key: quarterback 
  • Stance is relaxed with weight over your toes
  • Initial movement is slow and under control
  • Defensive backs should stay low as they transition from their angle walk to their Exit-Sink
  • Defensive backs should react to the QB’s tone holding the hole shot as long as they can.

Next Step:

  • Angle walk – exit – sink – QB

To see video of the Angle Walk-Exit-Sink-QB drill, click on the link below

To see game cut-ups of the Kathy technique against various releases, click on the link below:

Squat Technique

Philosophy of Cover 2 Hole:

Cover 2 hole is a hard cover 2 coverage where the corners are taught to physically re-route the receivers on the outside while allowing the linebackers to sink on the inside. This allows the safeties to over drop the hashes and the Mike linebacker to become the middle run through player.

In cover 2 hole, the corners are expected to play a hard technique where they stay on a cliff and physically alter the path of the receivers. This Squat technique is primarily used on short to medium length down and distances. 

Alignment:

  • Alignment is 7x1 (seven yards off number one receiver, one yard inside).  
  • Square - inside stagger stance.
  • He will have the flat and force in the run game. 

“We marry it up with our cover 4 looks,” said Valeria. “I moved them back to 7 yards, so that we could make our cover 4 alignments match our cover 2 alignments. We used to walk up to five on the snap. However, the walk up would get them out of their technique and get them too high. Now, I’m teaching the corners to stay on the cliff at seven yards so you really need to drive on your five-yard break routes (slants). If it’s a hitch, at least you’re two yards deep in the hole shot.” 

Primary & Secondary Keys:

  • Pre-snap eyes through the EMLOS to the QB. Upon snap the corner will “flash key” the quarterback before shooting his eyes to his primary key.  
  • Primary key is the wide receivers release from the LOS.
  • After the cornerback identifies the wide receiver’s release. His eyes will then transfer to number two for his secondary key. This will help him determine his final responsibility.

According to Valeria, one of the major differences between “squat” and “Kathy” is that in squat technique, the corner’s eyes are primarily on number one and not the quarterback. Valeria teaches a “flash key” to his corners in this technique. “We just flash key the quarterback to number one,” said Valeria. “We read the QB’s initial release. We’re not concerned about the drop.”

Technique Progression (Reroute – Exit – Sink – QB):

  1. Re-route: Physically altering the release of the wide receiver through our zone.  
  2. Exit (Same as Kathy): This is an open hinge step to a vertical shuffle that is used to transition between a corner’s re-route and before he sinks. It’s at this point where the cornerback’s eyes will transfer to his secondary key.
  3. Sink (Same as Kathy): Usually a vertical crossover run with a particular leverage on a wide receiver. 
  4. QB (Same as Kathy): Final key will always be the tone of the QB.

According to Valeria, the start of the technique is the only thing different between the two techniques. “In Kathy, the cornerback played a soft technique by angle walking on the snap of the ball,” he told us. “In squat, the cornerback is now playing a hard technique, looking to physically alter the release of the wide receiver. The rest of the progression through the technique is exactly the same.”

Squat Technique Drill Work

Cornerbacks Drill Progression:

Coverage: Cover 2

Technique: Squat

Drill Name: Cliff Footwork

Objective:

  • To read the wide receiver’s initial release from center and be in an athletic position to react.

Procedure:

  • The defensive backs will start with a staggered stance.
    • On the coach’s command, the DB will step up with his inside foot and then chatter their feet in a rapid movement.
    • The coach will then give a signal with his hands (right or left) and the DB will shuffle laterally on the line toward the direction that the coach has specified. 
    • The coach will then change his hand direction and the DB will then plant and change direction and shuffle down the same line he just traveled.  

Key Coaching Points:

  • Eyes on the coach.
  • Stance is relaxed with weight over your toes.
  • Hands should be up and in an attacking position.
  • Hips stay low in the athletic position throughout the drill.
  • As the defensive back transitions from side to side he should concentrate to stay in a straight line and not lose ground. 
  • On the change of direction, the defensive backs feet should never leave the framework of his body.

Next Steps:

  • Squat vs Releases – Footwork 

To see video of the cliff footwork drill, click on the link below:

Coverage: Cover 2

Technique: Squat

Drill Name: Releases – Footwork

Objective:

  • To execute the footwork needed to defend all four releases of a wide receiver when in squat technique.

Procedure:

  • The defensive backs will start with a staggered stance.
  • On the coach’s command the DB will step up with his inside foot and then chatter their feet in a rapid movement.
  • The Coach will then give the Defensive Back a signal and he will execute his proper footwork against air. 

Vs. Must Fade:

The defensive back will shuffle down the line, executing three shuffle steps before executing and inside open hinge step. Once the DB opens his hips, he will take two vertical shuffle steps before turning it into a crossover run.

To see drill work of the footwork necessary against must-fade releases, click on the link below:

Vs. Radical Stem:

The defensive back will shuffle down the line, executing three shuffle steps before executing an inside open hinge step. Once the DB has opened his hips, he will take two vertical shuffle steps before turning it into a crossover run and working to his landmark (22 yds. deep).

To see drill work of the footwork necessary against radical stem releases, click on the link below:

Vs. China:

The defensive back will immediately execute his inside open hinge step and go into his two vertical shuffle steps before turning it into a crossover run.

To see drill work of the footwork necessary against china releases, click on the link below:

Vs. Juke Release: 

The defensive back will start shuffling down the line, working towards his outside, before radically changing direction and finishing off back to his inside leverage.

To see drill work of the footwork necessary against juke releases, click on the link below:

Key Coaching Points:

  • Eyes on the coach.
  • Stance is relaxed with weight over your toes.
  • Hands should be up and in an attacking position.
  • Hips stay low in the athletic position throughout the drill.
  • Defensive back should execute three complete shuffle steps before leaving the cliff.
  • As the defensive back transitions from the cliff to his vertical shuffles, he should do so with a hinge step and not jump into the transition.  
  • Once exited off the cliff, the defensive back should be working toward his Landmark; 22 yards from the LOS towards the top of the numbers.

Next Step:

  • Squat vs Releases – against WRs

Coverage: Cover 2

Technique: Squat

Drill Name: Releases – vs. WRs

Objective: 

  • To execute the footwork needed to defend all four releases of a wide receiver when in squat technique.

Procedure: 

  • Exactly the same procedure as the previous drill, except executed with a wide receiver running the release, instead of on air.

Key Coaching Points: 

  • Exactly the same coaching points as above.  

Identifying and Responding to Releases:

Coach Valeria teaches his corners to read their primary key and react to four specific receiver releases:  must fade, radical inside stem, China concept and a juke release.

WR Key =  “Must Fade” Release (see Diagram 1):

This means that the receiver is attacking the outside shoulder of the cornerback while he attempts to push through the zone. 

On the snap, the corner will work to stay outside leverage of the wide receiver as he works laterally in a straight line from side-to-side. He will chatter his feet and shuffle laterally as the wide receiver pushes to his outside shoulder. After three big shuffle steps, if the receiver is still pushing to the cornerbacks outside leverage, then the corner knows it’s a must fade release. At this point, the corner will start his “Exit” and final re-route, using his outside hand and opening up so he can get his eyes to number two.

Diagram 1

To see game cutups of the squat technique against a must fade release, click on the link below:

WR Key = “Radical Stem” Release (see Diagram 2):

This means that the receiver is going inside before they even get to cornerback level.  

According to Valeria, “If they are not inside leveraging your shoulder, they are radically stemming you inside. The corner will stay on the cliff and work laterally in a straight line from side-to-side. After three big shuffle steps, if the wide receiver pushes vertical or continues inside, the corner will ‘Exit’ and ‘Sink’ to a landmark 22 yards deep at the top of the numbers. This will help a cornerback protect against the hole shot.”

“Once he gets past three shuffles, I tell him he has to exit to his landmark.” said Valeria.  “The route could turn back into a 7 route (corner route). Once he exits, he will transfer his eyes to number two to read his release. If number two is running the out route, most kids will jump the out right away,” said Valeria. “But you give up the hole shot when that happens. Therefore, I tell them they must first work to their landmark 22 yards deep, because I still need to read the QB. As they are sinking to their landmark they are reading the tone of the QB.”

Diagram 2

To see game cutups of the Squat Technique against a radical stem release, click on the link below:

WR Key = China Release (see Diagram 3):

This means the wide receiver cuts his route on a hitch or square in, before he even reaches the cornerbacks depth.  

The corner will chatter his feet at 7 yards. If the wide receiver hitches up before pushing to the contact area, the cornerback will exit and sink. 

“He’ll chatter his feet in place, once he sees China, I expect him to sink and immediately read number two,” said Valeria. “It’s still exit footwork but it’s an open, two shuffle step. He has to protect the route behind him.”

Diagram 3

To see game cutups of the squat technique against a China release, click on the link below:

WR Key = Juke Release (see Diagram 4):

A juke release is when the receiver attacks the corner’s outside shoulder and then quickly come back inside. 

The corner will chatter his feet and work laterally while the wide receiver is attacking his outside shoulder. Once the receiver cuts back inside, the corner is now told to violently re-direct and physically re-route the release inside to his safety. 

“Teams will attack his outside shoulder to widen a corner and open up the flat route for number two,” said Valeria. “Anytime you feel like the wide receiver is going into a must fade release and then he crosses your face, you have to attack the wide receiver right now! He has to squeeze number one right now, because he was widening you for his route and the ball may be coming out on his break.” 

Diagram 4

WR Key = Stalk Block (see Diagram 5):

Coach Valeria teaches his corners to shock-lock & escape, anytime the WR looks to block the edge.

“One of the weaknesses of squat technique is that the corners primary key is the wide receiver and not the quarterback,” said Valeria. “Therefore, his true run key will be identified late in the play. I tell the cornerback that they have no freedom of attack. They must shock-lock and escape, utilizing outside leverage.”

Diagram 5

To see game cutups of the squat technique against a stalk block, click on the link below:

These are the two main techniques Coach Valeria teaches his corners when playing cover 2. By mastering these two techniques, you can get your corners prepared to successfully defend any route variant they see during the course of a season.  

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