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Routes, a good read


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Here is a very good break down on how to run routes. If you have time, on this cold, winter's day, read on, the full article is worth the read, complete with diagrams, maybe Roman will read it on the plane 🤣

The New York Times: How NFL

The New York Times: How NFL Receivers Run Their Routes, Step by Step.


The New York Times spoke with five of the N.F.L.’s elite receivers: Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings, Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins, DeVonta Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles and CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys. They helped us dissect the art of route running, and we reviewed footage of some of their touchdowns this season. They detailed an intricate mental and physical battle to beat defenders, happening in fractions of a second, which most football viewers tend to miss.


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Hill said camouflaging the routes was a difficult skill to master because players naturally want to raise their stance too high, too soon before they change direction instead of staying low throughout.

Thielen, a notoriously deceptive route runner, said in an interview that one key to disguising his route was staying low as long as he could before breaking. He said he often looks defenders in the eyes while running to maintain a low center of gravity and keep his shoulders and head aligned.

“It’s to keep everything explosive and vertical and right at the defender,” Thielen said. “It’s to keep everything tight and moving forward.”

Creating separation


Once the receiver reaches the top of the route — the point at which he meets the appropriate yardage depth that the play calls for — the physics and geometry of the matchup become all the more important.

Pass-catchers have an innate advantage over opponents who are largely guessing what the receiver’s path will be. By this point, the quarterback may have already thrown the ball in anticipation of where the receiver was supposed to go. Creating separation from a defender earlier in the route gives the quarterback a window to place the pass and the receiver the space to catch it.

To do so, receivers try to leverage their defender’s momentum against them. Keenan McCardell, the Vikings’ receiver coach who played in the N.F.L. for 17 seasons, said Jefferson is adept at the top of his routes because of his body control.

“The man upstairs blessed him with great wiggle and the body movement to be able to give guys the illusion that he’s going one way when he’s really going the other,” McCardell said in an interview.

Jefferson showed that agility in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ overtime win against the Colts in December. He’d been held to five catches for 48 yards through three quarters as the Colts got out to a 36-14 lead. On a third-and-2 play from Indianapolis’s 8-yard line, Jefferson dazed cornerback Stephon Gilmore with a series of moves — breaking outside, jab-step inside breaking outside again — to get free for a pass he walked into the end zone.


Not all routes are so drastic. Smith said he likes to incorporate sly, quick head glances and nods as he’s running, which can trick the defender into thinking he’ll move into another direction.

“It’s very subtle, but as you play football, you pick up on things like that,” Smith said. “It’s just something else to give away and give them false information.”


With the Cowboys’ backup quarterback, Cooper Rush, starting against the Commanders in early October, Lamb used deception to make himself an easy target for an inexperienced passer.

On a second-and-5 play from the Washington 30-yard line, Lamb noticed that cornerback William Jackson’s back was turned to the sideline, anticipating that Lamb might run a short route over the middle to pick up a first down. Instead, Lamb ran his post route close to the boundary to squeeze Jackson.

Then he sold a head fake to the outside and cut in, escaping Jackson to make a 30-yard touchdown catch.


“It’s just part of mind control and understanding the speed of the route,” Lamb said. “I understand that you want me to go this way, but now I’m going to go the other.”

Putting everything together


Feints, speed, physicality and mental games can help receivers beat their defenders at various points in a route, but football’s elite pass-catchers can sometimes utilize all those tools on a single play.

With the Vikings clinging to a 17-16 lead over the Giants in the fourth quarter of their December matchup, Jefferson went through every trick of the trade to get Minnesota a touchdown.

He took an outside release at the snap when cornerback Fabian Moreau tried to leverage him inside. Jefferson fought Moreau’s hands at the line and then sped past as if running a go route. After running straight ahead for about 12 yards, Jefferson abruptly went into a dig route, breaking to run across the middle of the field. He caught Kirk Cousins’s pass just before the safety, Jason Pinnock, could reach him.


“Of all the routes you’ve run this year, that was the best route you’ve run all season,” Vikings Coach Kevin O’Connell told Jefferson after the 17-yard touchdown. “Inside leverage, doubling you, that’s unbelievable brother. There’s nobody like you.”



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