Film Room : Wide Receiver Route Tree

On Monday we learned about play calling for passing plays. While the basics aren’t too challenging, the sheer breadth of terminology and nuances between systems can lead to a bit of information overload. To circumvent that, I thought we’d take a look at a different sort of film for today’s film room post. This is an educational video for wide receivers that features Larry Fitzgerald, one of the greatest to ever play the game, as the instructor.

I think we’ll be just fine after we spend a few minutes with him:

*Note for all of the routes below: Larry frequently mentions that he’s trying to get a defender to open his hips. That means a defender has started to commit to one direction or the other – the right or the left – by moving his hips in that direction. Once the defender opens his hips, it’s much harder to flip his hips and come back around in another direction.

*Note for the rest of draft season: You’ll hear a lot of scouts and draftniks speaking highly of defenders who can “flip their hips” – that’s what they’re talking about.

The Routes Larry refers to are a little different than some that we learned on Monday, but they’re still all standard NFL Routes. Here’s the Cardinals Route Tree that Larry breaks down in the video, with any new terminology italicized:

1 Route: 5 yard Hitch Route

Plus Four Outside the Numbers – that means he’s aligned 4 yards outside of the numbers on his side of the field. He explodes off the line as if he were running a Go route (straight up the field to the end zone), but then cuts back in after running 5 yards to complete the Hitch.

2 Route: a Slant or a Drag Route

A Slant Route for X’s – remember, the X receiver is the split end, the receiver on the opposite side from the tight end.

Or a Drag Route if you’re on the backside of a naked – Whoa there, Larry. This is family programming! While it sounds vile, what it actually means is that the 2 Route can be a Drag if a receiver is on the backside – the side of the play where the ball is not going – of a naked bootleg – a play in which the quarterback runs with the ball in the opposite direction from the rest of the offense.

In either circumstance, the receiver is going to have to beat the defender off the line and run upfield at an angle to achieve the Slant or Drag.

3 Route: 4 to 6 Step Quick Out (Semi Route)

In order to sync up with the QB’s timing, the receiver running this route has to stay right on the numbers and leave as much space between him and the sidelines as possible so that when he reaches the edge of his route the ball is there waiting for him.

(Larry’s making up for his language in the previous segment by getting friendly – which means he’s going to close in on the trajectory of the ball so that he’s in the right position to receive it.)

4 Route (Big In) and 5 Route (Comeback)

In these routes, the receiver is running full speed ahead for the majority of his route before breaking either inside (4 Route) or outside (5 Route). The key is to not let the defender guess which way you’re going to cut. For the Big In, the receiver rolls in flat and friendly – meaning he’s staying nice and tight to the path of the ball – and catches the ball about 2 yards inside of the numbers. It’s the same process for the Comeback, but instead of cutting in, he’s doing to cut out at a 45 degree angle back toward the trajectory of the ball.

6 Route: Curl

The Curl starts with the receiver lined up 2 yards outside of the numbers, and continues with him running at full speed for about 10 yards. Then he cuts back down, much like a Comeback but at less of an angle, and gets open to receive the ball.

7 Route: Bench Route

This route is a bit of a combination of skills. When there is a safety in the middle of the field – or midfield closed – it starts with a slant inside, continues vertical, and then breaks out to the edge. When the defense is playing Cover 2 (when the safeties are deep and defending against the long bomb) or Cover 4 (when 4 defensive backs are deep), the running back runs a Flat and the receiver runs the same route at a higher angle so that they can hi/lo the safety – which means the offense positions different players at different levels vertically to make the safety decide who he’s going to cover.

8 Route: Bang (Flag, Corner) Route

1st Variation: Bang 8, a seven-step timing route in which the receiver angles to the pylon at the corner of the end zone.

2nd Variation: Big 8, a route in which the receiver chases down the safety, waits until he’s right on top of him, and then cuts to the corner of the end zone. Larry mentions that this route is ideal against teams playing quarters (not a drinking game) – a defensive scheme that employs four defensive backs in the backfield.

9 Route: Go (Fly, Fade) Route

More than just running straight ahead! The important part here is that when the receiver reaches the defensive back, he stacks – or keeps the defender right next to him on the inside – so that the quarterback can throw the ball to the receiver’s outside, right where only he can catch it.

That clears things up, right? Thanks, Larry!

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