Breaking down Rams’ coverage rates: Zone-heavy, minimal man

Ever since Brandon Staley took over the Rams defense in 2020, Los Angeles has been a zone-heavy team. Staley brought over the Vic Fangio system, which traditionally uses a lot of Cover 6 – a blend of Cover 4 and Cover 2.

Raheem Morris kept that scheme in place when he was hired in 2021, though he did tweak some aspects of the Rams’ defense in the last two seasons. But one thing remains: The Rams utilize a ton of zone coverage and hardly any man concepts.

Matt Bowen of ESPN broke down coverage rates for teams across the NFL, listing the top five and bottom five defenses in five different coverages. The Rams were either in the top five or bottom five of each one, which shows how one-dimensional the scheme has been.

Cover 1

Cover 1 puts the corners in man coverage against the receivers, with one safety covering the deep middle and another in underneath zone. No team utilizes this coverage less than the Rams, who call it only 17% of the time.

Teams that use Cover 1 trust their cornerbacks to stick with one receiver in man coverage, but the Rams don’t do that much at all.

Cover 2

Cover 2 is simple: There are two defenders deep in zone coverage, with all of the underneath defenders also playing zone. Even though this is a zone concept, the Rams don’t use it much, only 12.8% of the time. That’s the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL.

Cover 3

Cover 3 puts three defenders in deep zones, which is a great way to take away downfield passes. A safety usually covers the deep middle, with the outside cornerbacks dropping back into deep zones along the sideline.

This concept also helps stop the run because instead of having two safeties deep, one of them comes down into the box.

Cover 4

Cover 4 is the Rams’ primary coverage, running it 7.1% more than any other team in the league. Also known as quarters coverage, it puts four defenders in deep zones – which really limits big plays.

This is a staple of Morris’ scheme, with the defensive coordinator admitting recently that the Rams “live and die off not allowing explosives.” The way to attack Cover 4 is by throwing underneath passes and slowly moving the ball down the field.

2-man

Another man coverage concept is 2-man, which puts two defenders in deep zones and everyone else in man coverage. Given the Rams’ lack of man coverage calls, it’s hardly surprising that they rank 31st in this concept, running it only 1.4% of the time.

The NFL overall doesn’t use 2-man very often, with the league-leading Saints calling it just 20.1% of the time.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire