As a top wide receiver, you must be knowledgeable of the entire route passing tree. Here are some simple wide receiver routes which most people refer to as the " route passing tree" or "passing routes." Every wide receiver needs to know these basic patterns and how to run them effectively. The sharper and crisper your breaks out of your receiver routes, the easier it will be for you to get open.
In this scheme, the odd numbered passing routes go to the outside, while the even number passing routes go inside. At the college and pro level, wide receivers will have to know the numbers that represent each pattern, and the play will be called like "189." The three wide receivers will know which number belongs to whom.
For the sake of throwing off defenders and in attempt to not "give away" which route(s) you will be running, stay consistent with your starting stance prior to the hike of the ball. If your defender takes his game seriously and watches game footage of you, it will be hard to detect which route you're going to run initially if you stay consistent with your stance each and every time prior to the snap. On the other hand, if you keep your feet closer together for shorter routes or drop your hands to your side when you're not the primary receiver, smart defensive players will pick up on this and exploit it and you're weakness.
You should be an expert at performing patterns in the route passing tree and initiate them with the same stance. Some guys line up differently for short wide receiver routes than they do for deep ones. Also make sure you run every pattern hard, as if you are going to get the ball on every down. Every little detail matters. Through the games duration, defensive backs will have either respect your talents each and every play and anticipate the ball to eventually come your way, or simply tell themselves "he's not getting the ball this time." If he goes with the ladder, which in most cases he will, you will have produced an opportunity to catch the ball or better yet, score as defensive backs anticipate another decoy route or blocking assignment but to their surprise, you're running a fake comeback route then taking it up field for the streak pattern: TOUCHDOWN! In the game of football, your opportunity can and will come at any moment and when it does, you must be prepared. By running every pattern hard consistently, its inevitable that the ball will come your way at the dismay of your defenders.
By "selling" every route you run as if it's going to be the game winning catch of the day, you will not only wear out defenders, you will likely gain the attention of your quarterback as a hog and receive the ball more often than expected. That's why it's very important to understand and know the entire route passing tree.
Here are some of the most common routes:
- Zero Route/Drag/In: One of the most common routes in the route passing tree. Also known as the drag, this is a basic In route. To execute, go up the field typically five yards or less, then cut in toward the center of the field at a sharp acute angle. If you're lined up on the other side of the field, simply reverse reverse it. This route is often classified as a Drag as well.
Zero Rout/Dig: The In route can also be ran as a Dig in which You run up the field about 3 to 5 yards, selling the possibility of a burst towards the end zone for a deep route. Then you're going to cut in towards the hash marks at a sharp 45 degree right angle and look for the quarterback. Compose yourself and get a solid stance, find an opening between the defense and sit there, anticipating the quarterbacks pass.
- One Route/Out: Another common route from the route passing tree. To achieve this route, you simply run up field between 5 and 10 yards typically, followed by a sharp cut out towards the sideline of either side of the field you initiate the route on. by perfecting the persission of this route, the defensive back will have trouble getting to you and have less likelihood to jump the route if you know how to run it effectively - leaving the quarterback with a direct target.
- Two Route/Slant: One of the most common and most used route the short passing game in football is the Slant. Out of all of the routes in the route passing tree, this route is typically executed the quickest and implemented to gain quick yardage for a first down typically or expose the weak part of the field.
To perform this route, when the ball is snapped, take 3 hard steps up field then quickly angle towards the center of the field. Anticipate the ball immediately after or prior to your cut. In most cases, the quarterback will release the ball before you even make your cut or turn around, so keep your eyes peeled. The slant routes effectiveness is magnified when defenses tend to blitz. Proper alignment prior to the snap is very important for this route so you can make your cut on time. If you're lined up on the left side of the quarterback, be sure to have your inside foot (right foot) forward. By doing this, when the ball is snapped, it should take you exactly three steps to reach your plant foot and cut inward, allowing for the most agile and elusive cut to the ball. If done correctly, the defensive back won't have sufficient time to react or break the play up unless hes aggressive at the line of scrimmage in which case that may be advantageous to you as you swiftly avert him and cut inward.
- Three Route/Deep Out: The deep out is ran just like the standard Out route. The only obvious exception is that you will run this route deeper at about 10 yards. Simply run hard straight up the field as if you're running a streak/go route, then come to a quick stop and make a sharp 90 degree cut towards the sideline.
Four Route/Comeback/Curl: Also known as a Curl or Deep In. To do this route, run up field at about 10 to 14 yards, then quickly do a sharp comeback towards the quarterback. The ball will be thrown quickly after you break out of your cut or prior to you gearing down to make your cut so be prepared for the catch. Depending on the window of opportunity, this route can be tailored into a quick Hitch or Dig which means you will stop and sit after your break of 10 yards and wait for the ball to be thrown to you.
- Six Route/Deep In: This route is also known as the Deep Comeback. For this route, you will run up the field about 10 yards followed by a drag across field. Search for a pocket in front of or behind the defense and look for the quarterbacks pass.
- Seven Route/Flag: Better known as a Corner or Post Corner route, to execute it, run up field all out as if you're headed for pay dirt. Give the defensive back a fake step in as if you're going to run a Post route - make sure to sell this fake well. If you have open space and additional time, stick with the post until the corner back bites then quickly plant, turn and angle towards the corner pylon/flag in the back of the end zone.
- Eight Route/Post: The Post route is another commonly used deep route in football. To execute this route, simply run deep up field (typically 15 yards or further), then cut towards the goal post. This is route is typically used for a significant gain in yards usually a deep play for a lot of yards and very effective in man coverage.
- Nine Route/Go: Looking for the route that usually equals a big-time play in the route passing tree? This is the one for you, also known as a Streak or Fly route, this route has the potential to add points to any score board. Especially if the wide receiver has blazing speed. To perform this route, run down the field as fast as you can, outrunning your defender and gaining separation. This route is increasingly effective when the defender wants to play you in tight coverage since it gives you the chance to fight him off and get on top of him - giving you an edge and best position of the football should it be thrown your way. This route is usually intended for the fastest receiver on the team and is often a game changing play. If you want to be a game changer and top wide receiver, speed is a must. - Ten Route/Stop-N-Go: This route is a hybrid mix between a Hitch and Go route. To perform this route, run up field mid range, then quickly turn around as if you are going to have the ball thrown to you. The if you are the quarterback will then pump fake (fake a pass to you) the ball in your direction. Once he does that, quickly turn back up field. If ran properly, the defender should be thrown off by the route, giving you an edge and separation, allowing the quarterback an excellent target to throw to. This route is also referred to as a Chair route.
- Twelve Route/Short Post: This Route falls in between a Post and Slant route. This route is designed to get a wide receiver open in an empty space between the defense when they are playing in a cover 2 (using two safeties) set in which one safety will play short, and one will play deep. This route is also very effective when the defensive backs and safeties are playing a short and deep zone, leaving an open space between the defense.
Things to Remember:
Knowledge of the route passing tree will allow you to strategically work against defenders effectively. Through effective communication and relationship building between you and your quarterback, if the defender is playing off of you, do a quick Slant or take a fake step forward then just sit around the line of scrimmage so the quarterback can quickly throw the ball to you.
When defenders play you in tight man-to-man or bump and run coverage, run a Go, Post, or Deep Slant route. You don't want to deviate from your originally assigned route/play often, but if you and your quarterback have good chemistry in regards to situation adaption, you will both be on the same page, avoiding broken plays and making every adjustment highly successful.
By the time you have a firm grasp on the route passing tree and how to run each route associated with it, you should be able to easily determine which route will be most effective based off of the defensive scheme you're playing against. For instance, if you observe the defenders trying to take away the outside of the field, take the inside with a quick In or Slant route. On the other hand, if the defenders try taking away the inside route, go for an outside release and perform a quick Out, Hitch, Corner or Go route.
I've broken down how to effectively run each route in the route passing tree. Don't forget you'll need great footwork to be an efficient route specialist.
*To learn more about each route, please click on its route name to learn detailed strategies to running each route.