What Is Cover 5 In Football? 2 Man Coverage Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

Cover 5 is a common scheme 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 with 5 underneath defenders who play man coverage. This defense is often played in long passing situations and provides extra support for 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, to install Cover 5, it’s essential to understand why we call it Cover 5 and how it can be played.

Cover 5 Defense

Cover 5, also known as cover 2 man, is man coverage defense with 2 safeties playing half field zone coverage.

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

In Cover 5, the 5 refers to the underneath defenders playing man coverage. The 5 underneath defenders will account for the 5 eligible receivers who can route on offense.

cover 5 in football

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 more cautious.

Cover 5 is easy to install and can be adapted into any defense, 3 or 4 man fronts. It requires seven players to run it efficiently.

Unfortunately, if you run a 5 man front, it will be more challenging to run a true cover 5. It is possible; however, it may be tougher to install.

How To Install Cover 5 ( Cover 2 Man)

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.

cover 5 in football

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

Like the corners, it’s OK to be aggressive in this position against any vertical threats, as the safeties protect them.

The last underneath defender is often the middle linebacker. This player is responsible for running back swings, screens, or any running back route. This player must key the running back the entire time. Falling a step behind or not making any move toward the running back at the snap could result in a loss of leverage and a significant gain.

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

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 protects their side of the field.

Want To Learn More About Coverages? See Our Complete Defensive Coverage Guide Here

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.

The coverage is not run on every down situation because of its flaws in stopping the run game. Because there are two high safeties, the defense naturally takes a run defender away from the ball.

Also, because all five underneath players are in man coverage, it’s tough to focus on two things; the run and the pass.

Cover 5 is great coverage for 3rd and long situations when you’re almost certain the offense will 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 the end of a half to get the necessary coverage without calling prevent. This coverage is great for a prevent situation, and the team is inside the 40-yard line.

How To Beat Cover 5

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

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

The quarterback must find his best match-up to beat man coverage, 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 is that if they go deep, the safeties can support the pass coverage.

How to beat cover 5

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

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

Another alternative to running Cover 5 would be running a prevent defense in a Hail Mary situation.

Keep Learning

Learn more about coverages in football below.

Defensive Coverages In Football – Complete Guide

What Are The Nickel Dime & Quarter Packages In Football?

What Is A Zone Blitz In Football? Explained

Cover 4 In Football: Coverage Guide

What Is Cover 0? Learn The Basics Of Man Coverage

Learn The Basics Of Cover 1 In Football

Split Field Coverage In Football

What Is Cover 2 In Football? Explained

What Is Cover 3 In Football? Explained

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 man coverage installed, this is a great wrinkle to protect yourself against any deep passes.

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding techniques, schemes, and more!

If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit our coaching resource page here.

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.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.