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Football 101: The Route Tree (0-2)

Detailing all the routes of the route tree and how your favorite receiver makes a living off of them on Sundays

Wild Card Round - Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With the offseason slowly dying down as teams start to settle in with their new rosters, I felt that now would be a great time to explore the intricacies within the game of football and help the fans understand more than just names and numbers.

Being a former collegiate player myself, I believe that the knowledge that I gained over time as an athlete allowed me to view the game in a unique way and more so understand the game better situationally.

To begin, we’re going to start with some of the more basic stuff or what I would call general football knowledge.

The Route Tree (0-2)

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Before I explain how these tie in, here’s a description of each route.

Hitch (0) - sprint to 6 yards, break back to the quarterback at 5 yards

The “Hitch” route is probably the easiest route to learn and master out of all the routes in the tree. In the most basic form, you are simply running to six yards and turning towards the quarterback to find the football. However, because it is not one of the more complex routes or a route that covers a lot of ground, it can be easier for a defensive back to defend. This is one of the main reasons why receivers must master the art of body control and deception when running the hitch.

Your favorite Saints receiver Michael Thomas has mastered this route over the course of his career along with many others. Above, you can see how deceptive he is by getting off the ball fast and sprinting to the corners outside. While at the top of the route, Thomas is able to use the corners leverage against him by throwing him by. You would almost guarantee that Thomas’ route was designed to go deep but because of his understanding of how to threaten the defensive back even with a limited amount of room to work with, shows you how detailed even the most simple route has to be in the league.

Flat (1) - a three step speed out breaking of your inside foot

The “Flat” route or some call an “Arrow” route, is another simple route to learn where you’re attacking vertical up to three yards and rolling your route into the flat area of the field or towards the sideline. These routes are run by slot receivers, tight ends and backs coming out of the backfield. It is designed as a quick pass for short yardage, to get the ball in your playmakers hands or to open up something deeper down the field.

Newly acquired Jarvis Landry has made this route a staple in his game. His unique abilities after the catch make it easy for quarterbacks to give him these types of throws in which he turns into first downs religiously.

Slant (2) - three steps, plant on outside foot and break quick towards the middle of the field

The “Slant” is another part of the quick game also designed to get the ball in the receiver's hands quickly. Many times slants are quick one step routes or quick jab release at the line but the traditional slant is three steps vertical and planting off the outside foot.

As we all know, the slant is Michael Thomas’ most effective route and he is regarded as the best in the game at this route specifically. His ability to use his hands and feet at the line in alarmingly quick fashion while being able to secure every ball that comes his way.

Stay tuned to more route tree breakdowns in the near future...


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