Every receiver from the high school level to the NFL has to run perfect routes to make great offensive plays. Each passing play run by a football team includes a series of routes that help the quarterback find open receivers in man-to-man and zone defenses. There are dozens of routes used by offensive coordinators with the success of each route depending on a good first step and smart route running by the receiver.
Things You'll Need
- Receiver gloves
- Football cleats
Study a passing tree as well as your team's playbook before learning to run good passing routes. A passing tree is a visual representation of the ten routes commonly run by receivers including the streak, post, out and curl. This tree uses the streak as the trunk with subsequent routes emerging from the streak as branches. These branches range in distance from the screen at the line of scrimmage to the 25-yard post route. Many teams run drills using the passing tree to evaluate the route running skills of receivers and tight ends.
Assess the opposing defense's formation at the line of scrimmage before running a route. Man-to-man defenses pit a cornerback or safety against a receiver to make sure that every offensive player is covered. Receivers should learn to locate empty spots and missed assignments in zone defenses to grab passes close to the line of scrimmage.
Start out your route with a good first step that is timed to the quarterback's cadence. This step should be taken with the receiver's dominant foot toward the front foot of the defender to catch him off guard.
Position your body on the side of the defender that is opposite of the culmination point for a passing route. A tight end who is running a post toward the middle of the field should start on the outside shoulder of the defender. Commit to this position until the breakaway step to get the defender heading in the wrong direction.
Use good footwork to move toward the center of the field or toward the sidelines to complete your passing route. A receiver running a short route should use a stutter step to slow down and complete the turn without losing all momentum. Tight ends running routes toward midfield should cross over their outside legs and continue running at full speed.
Keep your elbows bent at your sides and hands near your chest while running routes to make quick catches. The ideal hand position during route running is just below the numbers on your jersey. This positioning allows the receiver to pump arms while running full speed, gain separation from the defender and get hands up quickly for a catch.
Glance back to the quarterback halfway through your route to break your route at the right moment. Offensive coordinators and receiving coaches instruct their players to break off routes to help out quarterbacks who are scrambling away from defensive pressure.
Tips & Warnings
- Work with the same quarterback each practice to develop good timing for passing routes. The West Coast offensive philosophy used by most teams over the last decade relies on completed routes and quick timing to convert high-percentage plays.
- Avoid big hits and injuries by keeping your body in the right position after completing a route. Receivers need to keep their heads up, shoulders straight and bodies angled away from oncoming defenders to anticipate contact after catches.
- Photo Credit Photo by Ben Stanfield