Understanding Routes in the Run & Shoot

All of the reads for the routes described below I pulled from various playbooks, lectures, and other sources.  However, my main sources were Mouse Davis’ 1992 NJ-NY playbook and Chris Brown’s Run and Shoot series( http://smartfootball.blogspot.com/search/label/run%20and%20shoot%20series ).

I have only detailed the routes bellow which require specific coverage based variations.

Seam Read:

 

(All the diagrams bellow assume that the seam read player is lined up on the strong side of the field and not the weak side.  If the receiver is lined up on the weak side just flip all of the diagrams.)

The Seam Read revolves around a simple M.O.F.O. (Middle of Field Open) and M.O.F.C. (Middle of Field Closed) read by the receiver and will always be run off of the safety nearest to the receiver.  This means that the receiver will always read the nearest safety even if he is not a deep safety(as is the case in Cover 4 Invert when the nearest safety drops down to cover the flat zone).  So, before the ball is snapped the receiver must identify which of the safeties will be deep, with this information the receiver can identify which safety will be nearest to him once the ball is snapped.

In all cases (except for against Man Blitz) the receiver will need to have made his read of the safety by the time he is 8 or 10 yards downfield.

***Occasionally, (when running the Hook package) the Seam Read will be flipped.  That is instead of deciding between a Streak, Skinny Post, or Dig route the receiver will decide between a Streak, Corner Route, or Out route.  In these cases the reads are the same as the ones detailed below except that the receiver is reading sideline deep defender.  That is he will read the cornerback playing the deep zone in Cover 4 invert instead of the free safety.  This is different than the regular seam read where the receiver reads the nearest deep defender in most cases.***

Against Cover 3:

Cover 3 presents the largest number of possible safety alignments and therefore presents the most difficult options for the Seam Read of all possible coverages.  Further, there are two main ways of teaching the Seam Read against Cover 3, the first is a timing approach and the other is more of a read.  The timing approach is most commonly used in the Go package while the read approach is more commonly used with the Choice package.  The first option is the only option used with the timing approach and all three options are used in the read approach.

1.)    If the safety rotates away from the receiver or cannot get over top of the receiver than the receiver will run a Streak route straight up the seam expecting the ball somewhere between  16-20 yards.  This 16-20 yard depth is where there is a natural hole in zone coverage beneath the underneath deep defenders and over the underneath defenders.  This throw is made when the  nearest safety has dropped down into coverage.  If the receiver did not get the ball in the seam between 16 and 20 yards he will break into a Skinny Post.

2.)    If the safety ends up between the receiver and the near sideline (this will often happen in trips formations where the safety can overreact to the formation alignment and slide to far over to the sideline) then receiver will run right past him and will run a Skinny Post.

3.)    If the safety stays in the middle of the field then the receiver will throw his outside hand up and run a Dig route somewhere between 16 and 20 yards downfield.  The receiver is given enough leeway with this route that he should attempt to stop his route once he has found the open window back to the quarterback.

Against Cover 2:

The receiver is reading the drop of the nearest half field safety.  When running his route up the seam, the receiver will want to get into the face of the half field safety.  By getting into the face of the safety the receiver forces the safety to really declare his actions.  The safety should not be allowed to stay deep and break down on the route after the receiver makes his cut.  Instead, the safety should be forced to make a clear decision so that the receiver can then put him into a bad position.

1.)    If the receiver breaks down the cushion of the half field safety so that there is 3 yards or less between the safety and the receiver, then the receiver will break off his route and run the Skinny Post.  The quarterback should not lob this throw deep because either of the two safeties should attempt to fill this void in the middle of the field.  Instead, the quarterback should deliver the ball so that the receiver catches it about 20 yards downfield.  Even though the ball is not a lob the receiver should have plenty of space to turn upfield and get a lot of yards after the catch.

2.)    If the safety is playing to the outside and has a 5 yard cushion or more, then the receiver will throw up his outside hand and cut into a Dig route.  The receiver should continue running this route until he has found the open window back to the quarterback and then the receiver should stop for the easy catch.

Against Man Free:

There are two different ways to teach this route against Man Free coverage.  In one case the receiver just runs one route once he realizes he is facing Man Free coverage, this option is more frequently used when the Seam Read is used in the Go package.  In the other case the receiver will read the defensive technique of the defender who is matched up with him in man coverage this is most commonly used in the Choice package.

If the receiver does not read the coverage of the defensive player then he just tries to get in the face of the defender covering him.  As soon as the receiver has broken down the defenders cushion the receiver will cut across the field at linebacker depth and continue his route until he gets the ball.  By breaking down the cushion of the defender before breaking on his route the receiver forces the defender into a trialing position.

If the receiver is reading the drop of the defensive player on him he checks the man coverage technique of the defender as he heads upfield.

1.)    If you read man tech, then the receiver will run up the field aiming for the cornerback’s outside shoulder. When the receiver gets about 10 to 12 yards downfield he will  throw up his outside hand and break off the butt of the defender to the inside of the field running a Dig route.

2.)    If the receiver reads zone tech (when the cornerback’s shoulders are square in his back pedal) then the receiver will just continue upfield running a streak.  Since the cornerback has squared his shoulders he will eventually be forced to turn his back to the cornerback or the receiver will just blow right by him.  As soon as the cornerback turns his shoulders he has lost.

Against Man Blitz:

Against a Man Blitz coverage the Seam Read provides an opportunity for a large gain.  The receiver should be breaking down the defender in order to gain leverage and provide the opportunity for a large gain.  If the receiver correctly read the coverage then there will not be any deep defender to stop the receiver from reaching the endzone once he beats his defender.

1.)    If the defender is playing off from the receiver then the receiver should take advantage of the space to attack the defender’s outside shoulder.  Once the receiver has broken down the defender’s cushion and reached the defender’s outside should then the receiver should begin running a Skinny Post.

2.)    If the defender is playing press coverage, then the receiver will release up field and make a slight bend to the inside and continue upfield.  Since the defender is in press coverage he will be forced to turn his hips once the receiver has passed him.  By curving the route towards the inside of the field the receiver is preventing the possibility of other defenders being around once he has caught the ball.

Against 5 Under:

As with attacking any other man coverage in this case the receiver will attempt to break down the cushion between him and the defender.  The receiver will then cut across the defender’s face and where he runs next is determined by the passing concept package. 

With the Go package the receiver will run at angle up the field aiming between the two deep safeties.  If the safeties are respecting the deep routes on the sidelines the receiver should be open for a large gain. 

With the Choice Package the receiver will run a Shallow Dig underneath the inside receiver’s route.  These double Digs create a simple read for the quarterback.

Choice Route:

Against Cover 3:

-The receiver will run 7 steps aiming at the outside shoulder of the cornerback and then will choose from three different patterns to finish his route, the Speed Out, the Skinny Post, and the Streak.  Each one of these routes attacks the cornerback’s leverage and fills a void in the Cover 3 coverage.

1.)    If the receiver gets to the outside shoulder of the cornerback then on his seventh and eighth steps he will roll towards the sideline running a Speed Out expecting to get the ball at about 12 yards deep

2.)    If there is still a 5 yard or more of cushion: on the receiver’s  7th step he will again break to the Speed Out

3.)    If the cornerback stays to the outside and the receiver breaks down the cushion to 3 yards or less, then the receiver breaks down to the skinny post on his seventh step. *Needs to be a skinny post so that it does not run into the free safety.*

4.)    If the cornerback played press and took away the skinny post by playing an inside technique then the receiver will run the Streak route

Against Cover 2:

Since the cornerback is playing a press technique and releasing the receiver to the safety the cornerback eliminates the Skinny Post and Speed Out as options for the Choice Route.  The receiver wants to attack the weak part of the zone, which is behind the cornerback and underneath the safety.  The Streak route allows the receiver to attack this weak part and will be open over top of the cornerback before the safety can reach the sideline (if the safety cheats to the sideline he leaves the deep middle wide open).  Since the receiver always release to the outside when coming off the line the cornerback cannot funnel him into the middle of the field (this should prevent any linebackers in underneath coverage from getting in the passing lane). Sometimes the defense will have a cornerback that is insisting on funneling the receiver to the inside.  If this is the case, then the receiver will have to use some type of technique to get around the cornerback (ex. swim, rip) and get back to the outside and continue his route along the sideline.

Against Man Free:

-Again the receiver will run 7 steps aiming at the outside shoulder of the cornerback and then will choose from three different patterns to finish his route, the Speed Out, the Skinny Post, and the Streak.  Each one of these routes is chosen in such a way that the cornerback will either be completely turned around or out of position; therefore, the route is decided based on the cornerback’s leverage as the play progresses.

1.)    If the cornerback is playing an outside tech. (this means that the front of his body is facing the inside):  Then the receiver will run straight at the cornerback’s outside shoulder and on his 7th step the receiver will break the Speed Out route off the cornerback’s butt.

2.)    If the cornerback is playing an inside tech. (this means that the front of his body is to the outside):  Then the receiver will have to work upfield on the cornerback nose to nose and when the receiver gets to his 7th step, he will break to the Skinny Post off the cornerback’s butt.

3.)    If the receiver gets to the body of the cornerback, then the receiver break his route straight up the field on a Streak forcing the cornerback to turn around and leaving the cornerback in a trailing position.

Against Man Blitz:

-Unlike against the previous three coverages the receiver will now break his route before his 7th step.  When facing a blitz the offense has less time to run their play, but will have better leverage against the defense and should have the receiver running the choice route in an isolated coverage.  The receiver will either break under the cornerback will a Quick Slant or will run around and over him with a Fade.

1.)    If the cornerback is playing back then either on your 1st or 3rd step, break to the Slant route.

2.)    If the cornerback is playing in press position, then you get a quick release and run the Fade route.

Against 5 Under:

The receiver will face the same difficulties with this route against 5 Under coverage as he would against Cover 2.  Therefore, the receiver will run the Streak against 5 Under just as he would against Cover 2.

Switch:

The Switch route is necessarily run by two receivers who run past each other in order to “switch” their routes.  Therefore, there are two distinct and different routes which I will refer to as the Switch route.  One of these is the Switch route which breaks inside the other is the Switch route which breaks outside.  In most cases the inside breaking Switch route receiver will make the same reads as a receiver running the Seam Read route.

Inside Breaking Switch Route

Against Cover 3:

The receiver takes three steps up field, and then breaks on a slant route to the hash mark (or wherever the hole is between the deep defenders).  As the receiver starts going up the hash, he will read the play of the deep safety (this should be done somewhere between 8 and 10 yards down the field).  From this point the receiver will make the same reads as he would with the Seam Read against Cover 3.  Just as when the receiver is running the Seam Read against the Cover 3 there are two ways that that the Switch route is taught one is timing and one is a read route.  With the timing approach only the first step listed below is needed.  With the read approach all of the steps below are used.

1.)    If the safety rotates away from the receiver or cannot get over top of the receiver than the receiver will run a Streak route between the deep defenders.  This is the default route run for the Switch route.  However, if the quarterback pump fakes or breaks the tackle box then the receiver will break into the secondary route a Skinny Post.

2.)    If the safety has favored one side of the field in order to prevent the Streak route being completed along the hash mark then he is leaving the middle of the field open.  So, if the receiver sees the safety rotating towards the hash mark the receiver will run right underneath him and run the Skinny Post.

3.)    If the safety stays deep in the middle of the field so that he can take away both the Streak and the Skinny Post then the receiver will throw his outside hand up and run a Dig route somewhere between 16 and 20 yards downfield.  The receiver is given enough leeway with this route that he should attempt to stop his route once he has found the open window back to the quarterback.  This route should cut underneath the safeties for an easy gain.

Against Cover 2:

Again the receiver will take three steps up field, and then break on a slant route to the hash mark (or wherever the hole is between the deep defenders).  As the receiver starts getting up to about 8 to 10 yards up the hash marks he will read the near deep safety.  From there the receiver will make the same reads that the Seam Read made against Cover 2 with one additional read.

1.)    If the receiver breaks down the cushion of the half field safety so that there is 3 yards or less between the safety and the receiver, then the receiver will break off his route and run the Skinny Post.  The quarterback should not lob this throw deep because either of the two safeties should attempt to fill this void in the middle of the field.  Instead, the quarterback should deliver the ball so that the receiver catches it about 20 yards downfield.  Even though the ball is not a lob the receiver should have plenty of space to turn upfield and get a lot of yards after the catch.

2.)    If the safety is playing to the outside and has a 5 yard cushion or more, then the receiver will throw up his outside hand and cut into a Dig route.  The receiver should continue running this route until he has found the open window back to the quarterback and then the receiver should stop for the easy catch.

3.)    If the safety has rotated over towards the sideline then the receiver will run a Streak route.  This read is essentially the same as the Skinny Post read and will be made in almost identical situations.  However, running a Streak instead of a Skinny Post saves the receiver time since he does not have to break his route and therefore the receiver can get open faster.

Against Man Free:

Because of the design of the Switch route the defender should be trailing the receiver in man coverage.  This means that the receiver has already won and is in great position.  Therefore, the receiver can make a simple read.  Can the cornerback be beat deed or not?  If the receiver can beat the defender up the field, then he should just keep on going up the field.  If the defender can’t be beat up field then the receiver will throw up his outside hand and break into a Dig route.  Since the defender is trailing he should be out of position giving the receiver superior leverage on the Dig.

Against Man Blitz:

Again against man coverage the receiver is charging the defender in order to break down the defender’s cushion forcing him to declare where he will go.  As soon as the receiver breaks down the cushion and gets into the defender’s face he will break into a Dig.

Against 5 Under:                                                     

Here the receiver is just trying to get deep fast.  With only two deep defenders one of the two Switch route defenders will be uncovered or at the very least will pull a defender out of position.

Outside Breaking Switch Route:

Cover 3

The outside breaking Switch route receiver is running a wheel route between the numbers and the sideline.  As he is running up the field he is reading the play of the nearest deep defender (the vast majority of the time this player is a cornerback).

1.)    If the near deep defender slides towards the inside of the field to defend the inside breaking Switch route he is leaving the sideline open. The receiver will then just continue upfield running a Streak route and expecting a deep pass to his outside shoulder along the sideline.

2.)    If the near deep defender stays in position and stays directly over the receiver the receiver will treat him just as a deep defender is treated with the Seam Read.  The receiver will throw up his outside hand, breakdown and find the open window back to the quarterback running a Dig route towards the inside of the field.

Cover 2:

The receiver will just try to exploit the fact there are only two deep defenders and will continue his wheel route straight up the sideline.  The combination of the Switch routes should absolutely destroy Cover 2.  The two deep defenders are each forced to cover 26 yards against two separate receivers.

Man Free, Man Blitz, and 5 Under:

The receiver will take three steps up field and then break on a slant to the hash mark.  The receiver will want to get the cornerback into a trailing position.  The receiver will then attempt to pull the nearest deep defender towards the sideline removing the defender from the play allowing the inside breaking Switch route receiver to make a big play because he does not have to deal with a deep zone defender.  However, if the near deep defender is staying inside to defend the inside breaking Switch route and the defender following the receiver cannot be beat deep the receiver can break his route inside and run a Dig route.

Streak Read/Sideline Wheel Route

This route is typically run just to influence deep defenders and does not usually involve making any reads.  However, after going 12 yards upfield the receiver needs to decide if he can beat his defender.  This decision is just a simple run where the defense isn’t.  If the receiver can beat his defender deep the receiver should continue upfield.  If the receiver cannot beat his defender deep he should break off his route expecting to get the ball about 12 yards deep.

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