These routes and names being taught are according the West Coast offensive scheme (Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Bucanneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers). This information is not meant to replace the terminology or execution that may be taught by a High School, Junior High, or Pop Warner coach. However, every single pass receiving route taught today on the amateur and professional level is derived from the same basic concepts. Therefore, I encourage you to implement these techniques because they will greatly enhance your route running ability.
Passing Tree Routes
Middle spot - Designed to be usually a 3rd read for the Quarterback. The most important coaching tip for this route is making sure you stop directly over the ball, 5-6 yards deep. Do not drift or slide until you make contact with the QB.
Drag - This is West Coast Offense terminology for a route ran into the flat. A big mistake young players and even coaches make in utilizing this route, is that they bow or round the route. This only makes the Tight End easier to defend. The key coaching tip on this route is to pick a point on the near sideline about 3-5 yards past the line of scrimmage, and then run as straight as you can to that point.
Stick - A simple 5 yard out. This route can be run various ways depending on coverage, but in this case you will practice this route if you are in man coverage.
- Get a good release off the ball
- At 4-6 yards past the line of scrimmage stick, plant and break the route with your inside foot and then run away from the defender slightly downhill. You should expect to catch the ball 3-4 yards deep.
Middle Cross/Flanker Drive - Another name for a 10-12 yard “in" route.
- Make the first 10 yards look like you are on a Go or Seam route. At 10-12 yards fake an outside break, then plant, break, and cut with your outside foot. Once you hit your break, run slightly downhill. You should expect to catch the ball 8-10 yards deep.
Option/Hook - This route is designed to take advantage of the leverage a defender will give you. If he is playing out side you will break inside. If the defender is playing you with inside leverage, you will break the route outside.
- Make sure you widen the defender at least 2-4 yards during the initial 4-5 yards of your route. This will create separation and give the defender an opportunity to commit inside or outside leverage.
Deep Dig - The West Coast Offense uses this route in 3rd and long situations. The route is ran similar to the Option/Hook but at 13-15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Like the Option/Hook route, you must get width in your initial 5 yards to widen the defender.
Shallow Cross- An underneath route designed to take advantage of Linebackers and 1 on 1 coverage. Make sure you get a good release off the line of scrimmage. Initially angle your route until you get to 4 yards deep, at that point give a little head fake like you are going to go up field, then break your route across the field. You will most likely expect to catch the ball where the opposite tackle will be.
Seam/Go - The foundation of all pass routes. The key is beating the man in front of you. Get a good release of the line of scrimmage and the first person to the 15 yard line wins!
- Make sure you widen the defender at least 2-4 yards during the initial 4-5 yards of your route. This will create separation from you and the Middle Linebacker and give you an opportunity to catch the ball between your man and the Free Safety. You will usually catch the ball 10-17 yards down-field.
Middle Cross/Flanker Drive (Middle Closed) - In some instances when a Tight Runs a Middle Cross the Middle Linebacker will pick you up in coverage. Rather than trying to beat him across the field after your break, run towards him a good 2-3 steps and turn back the direction you came an run an out route. An unstoppable play if read correctly by the receiver and QB.
Skinny Post - This play works magic against a cover 2. This play is run when the Safeties are jumping the Flag route.
- Make sure you widen the defender at least 2-4 yards during the initial 4-5 yards of your route. This will create separation from you and the Strong Side Linebacker, leaving room to run the Post.
- At 10 to 12 yards pas the line of scrimmage, take 1-2 steps like you are running a Flag, then cut, plant, break with your outside foot and run a Post. DO NOT RUN TOWARD THE SAFETY, he will light you up if you catch the ball. After your cut, stay in the inside shoulder of the defender.
In some cases you may feel like you are running a Seam if the safeties are tight together.
China - This route is designed to take advantage of Linebackers that jump the Drag route. The mechanics of this route are the same as the Drag, but after 3-4 steps into the Drag, stop and comeback to the QB. Do not reverse pivot or spin out of the route. You simply just have step, plant, and cut.
Deep Middle - This route is designed to take advantage of the Middle Linebacker in the Tampa Cover 2.
- For the first 5-6 steps make this route look like a Shallow Cross.
- Once you get to where the play side Offensive Guard would be then break your route up field, and then sit and break your route at 10-12 yards directly over the ball.
Seattle - This is West Coast Version of the Flag route. The only difference is the angle after the break. In a Flag the Tight End will try to keep the route high towards the back corner pylon in the end zone. The Seattle route however, is run flatter after the break to try to get under the Safety. In some cases, the route can almost look like a 10 yard out route.
Flag - Designed to expose Man or Cover 2 coverage.
- Make your break at 10-12 yards. Do not break your route too early. Make the defender think you going on a “Go" route for a touchdown, then break into a flag. . .
- On your break, cut with your outside foot, take two steps like you are running a Post, then break it back into a flag with your inside foot. After the break run towards the back corner pylon. Stay “skinny" and up field.
Casey Poppinga is a former NFL Tight End that writes for the fooball training & coaching site TouchdownSkills.com.