With the advent of spread offensive football and the increased emphasis on the passing game, defenses have responded by creating different coverages. Quarters coverage has become the #1 way to cover the spread offensive passing tactics. The days of playing pure zone are about gone if the offense has a QB who can spread the ball around. In order to play quarters properly, the defense will usually have rules based on wide receiver releases. There will also need to be presnap checks based upon splits of the receivers, the number of receivers, and how close the wideouts are aligned to each other. Motion by receivers and running backs can also increased the difficulty of getting the calls made correctly. Cover 2 read is a coverage that needs to be in every defense’s toolbox when defending today’s offenses. It can be drilled with simple rules to help defend the spread passing attack.
In its simplest form, Cover 2 Read means the cornerback (set at 6-7 yards) will align in a position that he can read the #2 receiver. The safety (usually at 10 yards) will also read #2. If #2 runs an out route at LB depth or less, the CB will take that route and the safety will run for the hip of the #1 receiver and cover him. If #2 runs vertical past LB depth, the safety locks on him and the CB will stay with #1. If the CB sees run to his side, he will look to help force the play turning the receivers over to the safety.
In order to run Cover 2 Read properly, the two receivers need to be fairly close in alignment to each other. Therefore most teams prefer to run 2 Read to bunched receivers or to the short side of the field. Running 2 Read to the short side allows the defense to play the nickel defender wide and keep 2 linebackers in the box vs a 2×2 offensive set. Some teams will also run forms of 2 Read to trips. If the receivers become too far apart, the safety will have difficulty getting to #1 when he goes vertical and #2 runs a quick out. Most teams have rules that allows the defenders to make a “lock” call if the receivers are too far apart. This means that the safety will take #2 wherever he goes and the CB will take #1.
If the offense runs a bubble screen into 2 Read, the CB will read this as quick out and jump the route, working through the outside shoulder of #1 who will usually be blocking. The safety must check #1 for screen and go.
Coach Tre Stewart of Illinois College does a pretty good job explaining the basics of 2 Read with whiteboard explanation and video in this youtube video.