Football 101: The Route Tree (0-2)

As the off-season draws to a close and teams get comfortable with their new rosters, I thought now would be a great time to explore the intricacies of the game of football and help fans understand more than just names and numbers.

Being a former college player myself, I believe that the knowledge I’ve gained over the years as an athlete has allowed me to see the game in a unique way and understand the game situationally better.

To start off, let’s start with some of the more basic things or what I would call general football knowledge.

NFL Pro Bowl

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Before I explain how these are connected, here is a description of each route.

The “Hitch” route is probably the easiest route to learn and master of all the routes in the tree. In its simplest form, you just run six yards and turn to the quarterback to find the football. However, since it’s not one of the more complex routes or a route that covers a lot of ground, it can be easier for a defender to defend. This is one of the main reasons receivers must master the art of body control and deception when running the hitch.

Your favorite Saints receiver Michael Thomas has mastered this route along with many others throughout his career. Above you can see how deceptive he is, coming off the ball quickly and sprinting outwards to the corners. Up the route, Thomas can leverage the corners against him by throwing him past. You’d almost guarantee Thomas’ route was designed to go deep, but because of his understanding of how to threaten defenses even with limited margin, it shows you just how detailed even the simplest route in the league needs to be.

The “Flat” route, or some call it the “Arrow” route, is another easy route to learn where to attack vertically up to ten feet and roll your route into the flat area of ​​the field or to the sideline. These routes are executed by slot receivers, tight ends, and backs coming from the backfield. It’s designed as a quick, short-distance pass to get the ball into your playmaker’s hands or open up a little further down the field.

Newly acquired Jarvis Landry has made this route a staple of his game. His unique post-catch skills make it easy for quarterbacks to give him those types of throws where he religiously turns into first downs.

The slant is another part of the fast play, also designed to get the ball quickly into the receiver’s hands. Often obliques are quick one-step routes or quick jab releases at the line, but the traditional oblique is three steps vertical and places the outside foot.

As we all know, the Slant is Michael Thomas’ most effective route and he is considered the best in the game specifically on this route. His ability to use his hands and feet at the line with alarming speed while securing every ball that comes his way.

Stay tuned for more route tree breakdowns in the near future…

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