NFL Next Gen Stat Coverage Classification

Coverage Classification is a first-of-its-kind AI system that can identify 8 different types of man and zone defensive coverages just seconds after the play ends. Trained on over 60,000 NFL plays over the last 4 seasons, it uses player tracking data to factor in variables like initial defensive player alignment, how they adjust to offensive players moving once the ball is snapped, player acceleration, disguised coverages, and even blown coverage assignments to determine which coverage was used.

Unlike most stats that focus on offensive accomplishments, the new coverage classification Next Gen Stat is all about the defense. Defensive stats are notoriously hard to create due to the number of variables that go into making them meaningful. So, how did AWS do it? Watch this video to find out.

AWS and NFL pull back the curtain on defensive strategy

Think like a NFL defensive coordinator with this new ML-powered Next Gen Stat that reveals the theory behind plays, bringing fans one step closer into the huddle

ML Solutions Lab 'Coverage Classification' Q&A

Q&A with the ML Solutions Lab about Coverage Classification, the latest Next Gen Stat from AWS and the NFL, that uses AI to take you inside the huddle to better understand defensive strategies.

What is coverage classification? 

The newest Next Gen Stat is able to correctly identify the specific defensive coverage formation a team is running for a given play, beyond just “man” or “zone.” Here are the eight different coverage classifications the ML model is trained to look for—and how they show up on the field.

  • COVER 0
  • Coverage Type: Man

    All-or-nothing man coverage with no deep safety. Each defender in coverage is responsible for an eligible receiver. Since 2018, defenses blitz on 90% of Cover 0 plays outside of the red zone; 62% of Cover 0 plays in the red zone. 

  • COVER 1
  • Coverage Type: Man

    A single-high centerfield safety with man coverage underneath. With a 4-man pass rush, an extra defender is free to spy the QB or bracket a top receiver. 

  • Coverage Type: Man

    Two safeties split the deep area of the field in half (1/2) with man coverage underneath. If all five eligible receivers run a route, the defense can send a max of four rushers. 

  • COVER 2
  • Coverage Type: Zone

    Two safeties split the deep area of the field in half (1/2), while the remaining coverage defenders occupy five underneath zones. CBs are responsible for the flats; Slot defenders are responsible for hook/curl zones; MLB is responsible for the middle hole zone. 

  • COVER 3
  • Coverage Type: Zone

    Three deep defenders split the backend of the defense into thirds (1/3), while the remaining coverage defenders occupy three or four zones, depending on if the defense blitzes. 

  • COVER 4
  • Coverage Type: Zone

    Also known as “Quarters” coverage. Four defenders are responsible for each deep quarter (1/4) of the field, while the remaining coverage defenders occupy three underneath zones. 

  • COVER 6
  • Coverage Type: Zone

    Also known as “Quarter-Quarter-Half” coverage. One side of the defense is occupied by two deep safeties, while the other half is occupied by one deep safety. The remaining coverage defenders occupy underneath zones based on the receiver strength. 

  • Coverage Type: Prevent

    A special coverage type saved for situations with little time remaining in a half. A number of coverage defenders align at extreme depths off the line of scrimmage, sacrificing underneath completions in order to prevent big plays & TDs.