The X’s and O’s of the Desai Defense Part 3

Image by Zachary Rosenbaum –

What’s the difference between one high safety or two before the ball is snapped? A whole heck of a lot actually. Certain routes work versus certain coverages and vice versa. Like last article, gone are the days of the traditional “in the box” strong safety, and the up high free safety, much like Eddie Jackson is. even though Eddie isn’t an in the box sniper, and his range and instincts are some of the best in the NFL. Hopefully after learning about basic coverages, we can hope that Sean Desai uses Jackson properly. With an excellent Front 7, he just might be able too.

Note: All the videos on here are a minute long so I know you can do it!



Fear not, this is simple stuff. Cover 3 implies that there will be “three” deep players. I drew in those thin black lines that would be where hashes are in college and high school. The corners and high safety are responsible for the deepest players in those zones. The 4 white circles show where the four players underneath will end up, which keeps the flat and hook areas well defended. The biggest killer to Cover 3 is “4 Verts” or Four Verticals. Two of those four routes will go up the seam where the thin black line is. One safety can’t cover two guys. (Unless it’s Ed Reed).

Remember that part about one safety can’t cover two guys up the seam?


With Cover 4, now you have four deep defenders to absorb those possible vertical routes. Great, right!? Well, now this coverage is susceptible to throws in the flat with only three underneath defenders. An offense can chip away at this underneath all day with hitches, or out routes. Also, just pretend the corners stay down in the flat, so in theory it’s 5 guys under and two deep, and boom, you have got Cover 2. Science! Note: You will see the Bears in two high more often than one high.

This shows what happens when two safeties CAN absorb the two routes up the seams


But most importantly though, it starts with keeping two high safeties to absorb deep and intermediate developing routes, even if they aren’t always presented that way before the snap. That is the bedrock of the Fangio defense, and really the base theory. Whether it’s Cover 4 (Quarters), Cover 2, or even 2-Man. The goal is to keep the downfield damage minimal to prevent big plays, and use the underneath seven players to maintain their gaps. You need a strong front 7 that can maintain those run gaps up front, because keeping two safeties high often is a luxury. Offenses see two high and start to think run. When you have Hicks, Goldman, Mack, and Roquan cleaning things up, offenses have trouble trying to find a weakness.

So, why did we keep watching the Bears Rams game? Besides being an amazing game, guess who we’re all on the Bears staff that night? Fangio was calling it, protégé Staley was in the head sets, and so was Desai. Desai has seen everything in his 8 years on the Bears staff. The train wreck that was the 2013-2014 Mel Tucker Era, to the Fangio apex, to Chuck Pagano trying to run a scheme that wasn’t his own. There is a reason Nagy hired him. The defense is old, but can still be successful, and he is going to let Desai ride it out with him.

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