Hello Silver and Black Pride, I will be working this site providing in depth film study for Raider Nation. Happy to be back.
Gus Bradley enters his 16th season coaching in the NFL and his first coaching in Silver and Black. During Bradley’s career his name and Cover 3 have often been synonymous, to the point where discussions about Bradley inevitably turn into discussions about Cover 3.
Of course, Bradley will call as much Cover 3 as any coach in the NFL, but this is the big leagues we’re talking about, NFL defenses can’t live in 1 coverage. While Single high coverages (Cover 3 and Cover 1) are Bradley’s staples on 1st and 2nd down, the wily coach will change things up on passing downs, especially against the best quarterbacks.
Let’s examine a few different calls in a Bradley defense where both safeties are deep:
Cover 4 Package
The favored coverage call from Bradley to stay in zone against pass heavy teams will be his Cover 4 package. Each side of the defense is independent from each other and the safety on that side of the field will be in charge of setting the coverage based on the number of receivers to that side, width of formation, and situation.
True quarters is the favored call against 3 receiver sides, with the cornerback and safety responsible for the 3 possible vertical threats while the Nickel and Inside LB account for the first out and first in break from the receivers. This creates a 4 (defenders) over 3 (receivers) coverage principle to that side of the field. This is a relatively standard way of playing Split Field Zone coverage in the NFL.
Cloud is Cover 2. The safety pedals to the numbers and the cornerback re-routes the outside receiver. Bradley’s defenses tend to play “Cloud” coverage over a singe receiver side (or when 2 receivers are very wide apart) and allow the cornerback to be aggressive. Rarely will “Cloud” Coverage be called to both sides of the field so Bradley’s defenses won’t be in a true Cover 2 look. Instead, it is a tool in their Cover 4 tool-box.
Palms is essentially mixing the best of “Quarters” Coverage (protection against multiple verticals) with the best of “Cloud” coverage (allowing the cornerback to jump out-breaking routes). Unlike the previous Cover 4 checks, “Palms” isn’t as widely used in the NFL, instead it is a wrinkle mostly used in high school and college.
Bradley’s defenses tend to play “Palms” coverage against 2 receiver sets. In the example above, the CB’s rules are to read 2-1 and widen on out breaking routes. If there are no out-breaking routes it turns into man.
Bradley will also go into each week with a set amount of alerts to handle 3 receivers to one side of the formation. The most popularly used alert seems to be the “Trio” Alert which locks the backside of the formation in man coverage and the safety to that side will work over the top of the final 3 vertical. The Clip below is from week 11 of the 2019 season.
This is the exact schematic tweak Paul Guenther borrowed and used against the Chiefs in the Raiders’ week 5 win. It is also widely acknowledged as the schematic tweak from the 49ers defense during Super Bowl LIV that gave Patrick Mahomes the most issues.
Also know as 2-Man, Cover 5 is a family of coverages where the 5 underneath defenders play Man to Man coverage while the safeties are free to roam over the top. There are several coverage checks in this family of coverages however Bradley uses two the most.
Fist is what most people think of when they think of Cover 5. The underneath defenders will play what is called a “trail” technique, getting into a back shoulder position on the receiver aggressively undercutting any out or in-breaking route. Meanwhile, the safety will pedal over the top ensuring the receiver is covered deep.
Bradley’s defenses actually seem to run more 5-Slice coverages. This time the underneath defenders will fight to maintain position on the upfield shoulder of the receiver they draw in man coverage. And now the safety can be the aggressive defender, jumping any in-breaking routes from either receiver to his side.
Notice in the above clip the safeties are executing slightly different techniques. At the top of the screen, the safety is much more aggressive, works downhill almost immediately while the safety at the bottom of the screen works backwards and gets over the top.
Much like the Cover 4 package, Cover 5 can have multiple calls where each side of the defense plays independent of the other.
2 High Blitz
Bradley is known for being one of, if not the most, conservative blitz caller in the NFL. His teams rarely blitz, but when they do two things will be different from last year.
- Bradley almost never calls the same blitz twice, instead opting to design a small handful of blitzes weekly specifically tailored to attack the offense’s weaknesses.
- Bradley’s blitzes work more often than not.
In the example below Bradley gets into what is widely considered to be a “Trap” Blitz coverage with a proven blitz path underneath.
The blitz above is widely referred to as “Odd Diner Trap” and it has been popularized recently by big time college programs running the pressure. The beauty of Bradley’s blitz package is that he doesn’t hang his hat on a blitz path that will go out of style when the NFL catches on, instead he mixes it up and gives the offense something new each week, albeit 2 or 3 times a game.
Bradley will run plenty of Cover 3 that is not up for debate here. But the record should be set straight: The Raiders new defensive coordinator has plenty of modern 2 high concepts in his toolbox and will call them sparingly, but effectively.