What are Nickel, Dime and Quarter Defenses?

In Defense, Football Content, Schemes by SteveLeave a Comment

As the passing game continues to advance, defenses need to match personnel and scheme. One way they’ve been able to do so is through nickel, dime and quarter defenses.

What are nickel,  dime and quarter defenses? Nickel, Dime & Quarter defenses are defenses which include 5, 6 and sometimes 7 defensive backs. Defenses try to match speed with speed when offenses add more receivers to the game.

Nickel, Dime and Quarters

Even though you might have thought this blog was going to be about money, it is actually all about defensive personnel! We’re going to learn how currency terms actually has an effect on football personnel. To learn more about these terms, check out our football handbook!

Nickel, Dime and Quarter all refer to personnel groupings that would come on to the field. The 4-3 and 3-4 are regular base defenses. These ‘coin’ defenses are when we bring in extra defensive backs and we send a linebacker or linemen to the bench. Lets explore the Nickel package first


The Nickel look can be shown in two main variations: the 4-2-5 and the 3-3-5. Lets look at both.

First we have the 4-2-5. Those numbers suggest 4 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs. This front exchanges a linebacker for a “nickel” corner so that one other coverage specialist is on the field. This slot cornerback is a staple in every defense at the NFL level

The other popular variation is a 3-3-5 front. Instead of exchanging a linebacker for a slot corner, this front exchanges a defensive linemen for a corner.

The benefit, regardless of the 3-3-5 or the 4-2-5 variation, is that there is an extra defensive back on the field. It is up to the coach how to utilize the front 6 of the defense as both have pros and cons


When we have a Dime defense, we add yet another defensive back. We now have two slot cornerbacks on the field which better suits a defense to defend a 4 WR set from an offense. This comes at the expense of being more vulnerable to the run, but there are plenty of times that this personnel group makes sense

The picture shows a 4-1-6 grouping (4 defensive linemen – 1 linebacker – 6 defensive backs). It is worth noting that this could also be run as a 3-2-6 but it is not as common.


The most extreme of the pass defensive packages is the Quarter. Our picture below shows 3 safeties and 4 corners but it could be 5 corners and 2 safeties.

Defenses rarely use this look and it only comes up when obvious, deep passes are coming. Lastly, This look almost always comes with 3 defensive linemen and 1 linebacker.

Quick Recap

When Nickel, Dime and Quarter looks are being used, the defense is putting more personnel into stopping the pass. Nickel is very common and dime packages have frequent use at the NFL level as well. Remember, when you here these coin packages, there are more defensive backs on the field and the focus is on covering receivers down the field.

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