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Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Runningback on the Shallow Cross Route

The shallow crossing routes have become very popular recently. A recurring question is how to use the running back on the play. Send him to the side the shallow is going, or where he came from?

For an earlier discussion of the shallow cross, see my article on how Mike Martz uses the shallow cross in various ways here. Martz is a pretty comprehensive guy and this covers most of the bases.

But here are some thoughts on how to use the runningback in the route:

Depends what you're doing on the play.

The Airraid (Mike Leach/Texas Tech, I think Kansas with Mark Mangino, Troy St., Hal Mumme) guys let him "leak" out to the side the shallow came from. This creates a nice "triangle" for their hunt route coming over the middle and works as a nice hi/lo read. They look at the shallow first.

Some other coaches will send a shoot/swing/wheel to the side the shallow is going. Petrino used to do this at Louisville a lot (especially with a no-back protection, shallow came from trips side, single rec side (TE or split end) would run a post or a square-in).

The reason is that the RB will pull the flat defender on that side out. That way the shallow will come open in the void he has created.

Another good option is to have the RB run an angle route to the side the shallow came from. Mike Martz often does this. Any hesitation by the Mike backer can create a nice void for the RB to get into. The "crease" concept is built around this.

Purdue and the Airraid guys will also send the running back on a full swing or shoot to the side the shallow came from. Both will usually have the outside receiver run a curl. (This also relates to the drive or "stem" concept but without the rubs.) The reason for this is that the curl essentially fits into the same void as the "leak" or "short hook" RB just outside the tackle, but obviously he's farther downfield. But it's the same passing window. There they just use the RB to widen the flat defender out.

So the point is there is no one right way, just different ways to attack the defense. This gets back to the notion of "concepts." In other words, the "shallow" is not a concept, it is a route to be used within those various concepts.

While a pro team may use each of these and more, a high school team may only have room for one. But each affects the defense differently so what you choose to do may depend on what you already do, what defenses you see, and what you can fit in well.

Building Stretches

The question was: How do you build downfield routes that stretch defenses horizontally (from sideline to sideline)?

An example of a short stretch is all curl. There you have 3 "short" receivers (tight end over the middle, backs in the flat) and two curling back receivers (outside guys) who come under the deep shell of the secondary and stretch four underneath defenders with five guys. Sid Gillman invented the play and Bill Walsh ran it for years and years.

See this article for further discussion on concepts and horizontal and vertical stretches.

Here are some thoughts on applying this procedure to routes farther downfield:

Examples of "downfield" routes that still use horizontal stretch concepts are the three-verticals (corners and a post) which is used to "horizontally stretch" two deep safeties. Also the four verticals play is a deep horizontal stretch, where you use four receivers to stretch three (or, more simply, the two inside receivers to stretch the middle safety).

I'm not sure it counts as sufficiently "downfield" but other common ones would just be a 10-12 yard out by #1 with a curl or seam by #2. You read this out to in. Often the RB sits over the ball so you get a kind of 1-2-3 horizontal stretch.

Note that several of these routes (like the three verticals with the corners and the post in the middle) employ both the horizontal stretch and the vertical stretch. For example on three verticals you stretch the two deep safeties horizontally with the two corners and the post, but you also stretch the cornerbacks/flat defender hi/lo because you send the runningbacks or a TE type player to the flats.

A final thought on this question, however.

This may seem like a simple question, but it really gets to the heart of how good passing concepts are built.

They are built with sound stretches, often layered over each other to put the maximum pressure on the defense. They are finished by making each route good versus man to man, or including a man to man concept.

You cannot build pass concepts that beat all potential coverages, but your goal is to make the defense work at stopping you and make them pay for their mistakes.