I am definitely not a fan of the Tampa 2 defense which is just a glorified version of the Cover 2 defense adjusted for the West Coast Offense. The West Coast Offense is a pass-first offense of outs, slants, posts and corner routes and utilizes the running backs off the blocks and for screen passes. Furthermore, the tight end usually releases into the deep middle for a 20-yd rumble because the linebackers stay up. The Tampa 2 adjusts by releasing the middle linebacker on pass plays about 15-yds back from the line and creating a 6-front line. In my opinion, this release of the linebacker is dangerous for 3 reasons:
- Middle linebackers aren’t usually fast enough to keep up with tight ends or slot receivers
- Offenses just have to adjust their route running to square-ins and middle curl routes
- With the new statue of liberty plays, receiver screens and 3,4 wide formations, usually create coverage problems and mis-matches on the field
I’ll elaborate #3 a little. For the statue of liberty play, once the middle linebacker sees pass, he drops back. These plays are usually draw plays with traps up the middle which would be covered by that middle linebacker spot. With receiver screens, your middle linebacker is usually your rover in a 4-3 and with him inching back for pass, the WLB and SLB have to pinch in leaving the corners and safety alone or worse yet (on trips wide), you leave your OLB lined up on a wideout, safety moved up and CB being blocked which leaves no room for error. Finally for the 3,4 wide, if teams run deep crossing patterns down the middle, your middle linebacker ends up covering the 1 & 2 receivers and you only have safety help from the outsides, so when that linebacker sees he can get burned deep you can run your slot on a square-in underneath OR your tight-end off the blocks for nice curl pattern.
Instead, I’m a fan of the Nickel Defense. It plays off the 3-4 but with 5 DBs and 3 LBs or sometimes just 2 down linemen (depending how you go). I feel like whether you’re in prevent or in a regular down situation, the nickel suits you with the speed of the DBs to cover the run (not to mention the fast LBs you need for the Tampa 2 anyway) and you cover the pass with a solid 5 DBs in your secondary. It’s not a fool-proof defense but I think if you’re going to rely on the front 4 to pass rush and team speed for your run (like the Tampa 2 / Cover 2 does), you’re better off with the Nickel Defense. On top of that, there are much better/complex blitz packages that you can do with this defense. But that’s for another day.