Have you ever been watching a football game and heard the announcers state that the defense was in banjo coverage? Die-hard NFL fans may know what this term means but the majority of football don’t have a clue.
That’s why this article is on hand to break down what banjo coverage is in football.
Banjo coverage in football is a defensive pass coverage that allows defensive players to switch which players they are covering during the play. In most cases, this coverage is used when offensive players are getting in the way of the defender making it difficult to cover his assignment.
At the NFL level teams will do anything they can in order to generate separation for their wide receivers.
One of the ways an offense can earn some separation from their defender is to put players in between them. Teams will intentionally run other offensive players between a wide receiver and his defender in order to give him more space.
Banjo coverage is a response to this attempt to achieve separation for their wide receivers.
Instead of getting bumped off of your wide receiver defenders will instead switch defenders mid-play. The call to switch which player you are covering is usually called out by one of the players on the field.
These players will be instructed on what to look for in order to determine if they should switch coverages or not.
It is also important to mention that banjo coverage is used when playing man coverage. In a zone defense each player is going to be responsible for watching a certain portion of the field.
Since they are watching a location instead of a specific player there is no need to use banjo coverage when playing zone.
When Is Banjo Coverage Used?
Now that you understand what banjo coverage is in football you may be wondering what kind of play is it used against. Below we will break down the most common plays that this defensive coverage is used against.
Arguably the most common instance in which banjo coverage is used is during pick plays. Pick plays also referred to as rub routes are plays in which a receiver intentionally gets in between a receiver and his defender.
The receiver on these plays cannot intentionally make contact with the defender but it is entirely legal to make the defender go around the wide receiver.
This “pick” by the receiver allows the intended receiver to generate separation, therefore, getting open for the pass.
With this defensive coverage, players can simply switch coverage if they are getting picked. Instead of trying to stay with their receiver, the defender can switch his coverage to the player trying to pick him.
This neutralizes the pick used on the route and makes it much more difficult for the receiver to get open.
Screen plays, especially wide receiver screens are plays that use banjo coverage. On these plays, teams will usually set up with receivers in a bunch formation.
The pass will go to the receiver off the line of scrimmage and the other receivers in the formation will block for him. On these plays, the dbs do not know that two of the receivers are going to be blocking instead of running routes.
Instead of having to sort through the crowd of receivers to find their man these defenders can use banjo coverage to switch their coverage to the receiver closest to them.
This way if one of the defender has a shot at the intended receiver on the screen play he can go for them. Without this coverage, the defender would have to stay on his assigned receiver.
Why Is It Called Banjo Coverage
There is no official reasoning as to how banjo coverage earned its name but our best guess is that is has to do with the word “pick”.
Banjo the instrument is played with “picks” on each finger which are used to pluck the chords of the instrument.
As we stated earlier in the article the most common play in which banjo coverage is used is when a pick play is called by the offense.
Meaning banjo coverage may have earned its name due to its use to stop pick plays.