How I Teach Match Quarters – Pt. 1

A clinic on the pedagogy of match quarters. Pt. 1 — Teaching the CBs.


Teaching the Corners

Four Read (Sky)

The corner’s alignment in Sky should be front toe at six yards and shaded to the “inside eye” of the receiver. The term “inside eye” means if the CB were to walk up to the WR his outside eye should look directly into the inside eye of the WR. This allows the CB to hold inside alignment without giving up too much space in between. Six yards is a good depth because it is not too deep that it automatically gives up the underneath and not too close that the CB ends up in “no man’s land.” The CB’s stance is an “open” stance or the inside toe on the01-stance heel of the outside foot. I’m not a big proponent of getting the butt to the sideline and shuffling out (basketball style) because match quarters is different than true zone. It is essentially a hybrid man scheme, where the CB takes the #1 WR a majority of the time (and the safeties bracket the #2 WR with the outside linebackers). I like to keep my corners square in order to break on the out and slant routes. I find that as players shuffle out basketball style and butt to the sideline, they start working to the sideline and give up the advantage of inside alignment. The point of match quarters is to force the least percentage throw, the fade or deep comeback, thus, I keep them square and we “slide” out.

The initial step of the CB is to slide out, or step-replace for three steps. Most offenses will attack quarters in the soft underneath zone. The slide technique is essentially a three-step read. We are pushing off with the front foot and stepping back with our inside foot. These are quick steps and our feet are never too far off the ground. The corner should have “hot” feet and stay in his “tuck.” This positioning allows the CB to drive on any ball underneath, essentially off-man. After the initial three-step read, the CB transitions into his regular backpedal, reading the WR’s departure speed.

The CB’s eyes are looking at the #2 WR through the QB. This completes his “triangle.” It is important for the corners to be able to see through their entire peripheral vision. Keeping an eye on the departure speed of #1, while reacting to the route of #2. In Sky coverage, the CB is the deep player. His responsibility is to “top” the deepest route or drive on anything underneath by the #1 WR. The only route combination that changes the assignment of the CB is a stop/corner, or China/Smash route. In that case, the CB would give a “stop” call, flip his hips to the sideline and mid-point the stop and corner route (same as in Cloud or Two Read). If the team is running a stop/bender concept to hold the OLB in the curl, the CB should drive on any ball thrown to the #1 WR. Everything is predicated on the #2 WR. In the video below you will see a good example of sliding out and keeping inside leverage by the field corner.


Two Read (Cloud)

A flat foot, closed stance, is what I teach for Cloud coverage. In Cloud, the CB needs to be patient and hold his position. In Two Read the CB is in charge of the outside intermediate zone. His responsibility is to drive on anything outside. For this reason, the CB’s feet need to be square. 01-cloudLike in Sky, the CB aligns on the “inside eye” of the WR. Many coaches will teach Cover 2 schemes with the CBs aligned to the outside of the WR. In a true zone, this allows the CB to read from an outside perspective. In match quarters, everything is treated as a hybrid man scheme. This is why, even in Cloud, the CB is aligned on the inside of the WR. His vision point is still on #2. The CB’s depth should be between four and five yards depending on the speed of the corner. At the HS level, I align my CBs at five yards. This allows them enough depth to react to any double vertical route, yet be close enough to drive on any five-yard out. If you don’t feel comfortable aligning the CBs on the inside, you can move them to an outside shade. Just understand, you are opening up the window for the slant, or to be walled off on a fade or inside 9 -route that is becoming popular with spread teams.

Cloud coverage is a trap coverage. The CB’s are driving on any underneath route that comes to the boundary. For that reason, the steps and alignment of the CB’s must change. Unlike Sky, the CB’s in Cloud need to be patient. They are the intermediate players and drive on any out. I teach what is called a “feather” technique, or a hot-feet shuffle. The CB’s are keeping constant contact with the ground in order to drive suddenly on routes. In the video below the CB pops his feet and drives on the switch screen. Cloud is a great coverage to combat cluster sets and heavy RPO bubble and switch teams. The coverage also allows for a force player on the sideline. Many times, Cloud is run to the boundary to combat fade/out or HBO routes. Teams that like to run high-low routes to the outside zones can be combated with Cloud coverage.

The CB’s eyes are fixated on the #2 WR. Any out step by the slot and the CB will drive on the route. It is key for the CB to “go hard” through the #1 WR. The term “go hard” is a phrase I use when teaching that tells the CBs they have to get a shot on the #1 WR, knock him off his path, and slow him down. Against a fade/out combo, the soft spot is located right behind the driving CB and underneath the kicking safety. In Cover 2, most coaches understand, that if the CB doesn’t get hands on the #1 WR, and gives him a free release, it may not give the safety enough time to climb over the fade route by #1. I always make sure when teaching this concept to drill the collision. It doesn’t need to be violent, just enough to knock the WR off their route and slow them down. Versus any China, or Smash, route concept the CB will sink to the intermediate position (mid-point between the stop and the corner route) and force the QB to make an accurate throw deep. Like Sky, the Two Read concept is designed to force the QB to make the most difficult throw.

In the video below, you will see a good example of Cloud coverage to a stack set. The field CB “pops” his feet and drives once he sees the slot run a switch route (in Cloud coverage the CB drives on anything underneath). His outside arm is kept free. The CB, in any coverage, is the outside force player; nothing can get outside of him. The key in Cloud is to keep you CB’s patient. They cannot fly out of their stance. A good tuck and “hot” feet are key. As stated earlier in the piece. I teach my CB’s a feather technique in Cloud coverage. It is a “hot” foot shuffle. I want my CB’s to stay square as long as possible while viewing their triangle (#1 to #2).

If you are looking for pass distribution examples in 4 and 2 read click the link –

If you are looking for drill work, visit the YouTube site –

As always, follow me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and do not hesitate to email me with questions through the site’s Contact page.


Author: MatchQuarters


11 thoughts on “How I Teach Match Quarters – Pt. 1”

  1. Coach,
    Is the soft press footwork similar to the “feather” technique you are teaching in “Cloud” from an off position? If not, can you explain that difference?

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