An unorthodox defensive coverage scheme that requires a combination of defensive backs and linebackers to cover a single offensive receiver.
Triple-team coverage is not your average coverage shell, but it has been used and continues to be used in modern professional football. It requires that a single player, usually a team’s most talented offensive receiver, be not just double-teamed, but triple-teamed by assigning three defensive backs, linebackers or a combination of the two to defend against the threat posed by that player.
The triple-team is an aggressive strategy that is normally used as a statement by a team that they will commit enough resources as necessary to mostly or completely shut down one of the opposing team’s players. This, of course can result in exposing the defense to plays that do not involve the target player, but teams that employ this coverage are usually giving up other plays be employing the triple-team.
Triple-team coverage will also often develop over the course of a game if a team is not having success defending against a receiver who is already being double-teamed. And it can be effective if it works, as coaches will still often make the choice to go to an extremely-talented receiver regardless of how many defenders are assigned.
Some notable NFL players who have been frequent recipients of triple-team coverage include Terrell Owens, Antonio Gates, and Jerry Rice.