What Is Cover 5 In Football?

Cover 5 is common scheme that’s run in most two high safety schemes. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of typical coverage talk. As mentioned in previous articles, the last number after the “Cover” is typically the number of deep defenders. In cover 5 however, it’s different.

Cover 5 is a 2-deep coverage which has 5 underneath defenders who play man coverage. This defense is often played in long passing situations and provides extra support for any deep passes.

In this article we’re going to cover exactly what cover 5 is and how you can both identify it and install it into your scheme. First, in order to install cover 5, it’s important to understand why we call it cover 5 and different ways it can be played.

Cover 5

Cover 5, as mentioned breaks the rules of what we typically saw in deep defenders. Typically in cover 1, 2, 3 and 4, the number pertained to the deep defenders.

In the instance with Cover 5, the 5 refers to the underneath defenders who are playing man coverage. The 5 underneath defenders will account for the 5 eligible receivers that can go out for a route on offense.

It’s the responsibility of the underneath defenders to play aggressive man coverage, as they have safety help over the top. Typically in man situations, underneath defenders don’t have safety help and need to be a bit more cautious.

Cover 5 is easy to install and can be adapted into any defense, 3 or 4 man fronts. It requires 7 players to run it efficiently. Unfortunately if you run a 5 man front, it will be a bit more difficult to run a true cover 5. It is possible, however it may be tougher to install.

How To Install Cover 5

Installing cover 5 is as easy as installing man coverage. The only difference is now you’ll need to add another layer on top of it with the two high safeties.

First, the corners are responsible for the number 1 receivers on the outside. As mentioned these players can be aggressive with the number 1 receiver as they are protected from any deep balls.

Second, the linebackers or nickel backs are responsible for the number 2 receivers in the slot. This the hardest man position to play, as the slot receiver has more room to work with, going inside, outside or vertical. You best athlete should be playing in the slot to cover the speedy receivers.

Similar to the corners, it’s OK to be aggressive in this position against any vertical threats, as they’re protected by the safeties

The last underneath defender is often the middle linebacker. This player is responsible for any running back swings , screens or any type of running back route. It’s important that this player keys the running back the entire time. Falling a step behind or not making any motion toward the running back at the snap could result in a loss of leverage and a big gain.

Last are the two split field safeties. As they would in a cover 2, they are splitting the field in half. This is why this coverage is also called 2-Man. The 2 part of it stands for the 2 safeties and the man part is for the underneath man defenders.

The safeties are responsible for protecting the deepest part of the field. Nothing should get behind the safeties, as they are looking to jump on anything that comes their way. They split the field in 1/2 and each protect their side of the field.

Why Run Cover 5

Cover 5 is a unique coverage as it’s not typically run every down. Coverages like cover 1, cover 2 and cover 3 can typically be run on any down and distance situation. Cover 5 is a bit different.

It’s not run on every down situations because of it’s flaws in stopping the run game. Because there’s 2 high safeties, the defense naturally takes a run defender away from the ball.

Also, due to the fact that all 5 underneath players are in man coverage, it’s tough to have the players focus on two things; the run and the pass.

Cover 5 is a great coverage for 3rd and long situations, when you’re almost certain the offense is going to the pass the football. This gives the defense the flexibility to defend against the deep ball to ensure the offense won’t gain the long yardage it needs.

It can also be used at the end of the game, or at the end of a half in order to still get the necessary coverage, without having to go into a prevent situation. This coverage is great for a prevent situation and the team is inside of the 40 yard line.

How To Beat Cover 5

As always, we always like to explain the weakness of the defense, that way you’re able to protect against the offense trying to exploit the holes.

In order to beat cover 5, you’ll need to treat the underneath defenders as if it’s man, but the deep defenders as it’s cover 2.

In order to beat man, the quarterback must find his best match-up, and they must win the 1 on 1 battle. However, that battle must be won within a 10 yard limit. The reason for the 10 yard limit, because if they go deep, then the safeties can support on the pass coverage.

Mostly shallow crosses or anything that runs underneath can help beat the man coverage.

If you’re looking to press the ball downfield, then the offense should attack the holes on the outside by the numbers, and the middle of the field. This is how the cover 2 is beaten. Often times teams will try to throw the ball into these soft zones if they have a WR that is better than the defensive player covering.


Cover 5 is a great defense to install if you’re looking for something that can be a bit more aggressive underneath, rather than a standard prevent defense. This also allows the defense to rush with 4 rushers to close the pocket on the quarterback.

If you have a cover 2 and a cover 0 or any type of man coverage installed, this is a great wrinkle to protect yourselves against any deep passes.

Have any questions about cover 5? Let us know in the comment sections below and we’d love to hear how you install it and the different variations of playing cover 5.

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