A route in football is a specific path that a receiver will follow in order to get open for a pass from the quarterback. Routing is intended to separate the quarterback from the defenders. On a passing play, wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs can run routes.
Most football teams determine what routes offensive players will run before the play begins. Each player will know where to run and how many steps they will need to take before making their cut before the play starts.
To throw accurately to all receivers, the quarterback must know their routes.
In Football, How Routes Work
In football, routes are only run on plays where the quarterback is going to attempt a forward pass. When the offense rushes the ball, players who usually run routes will be assigned to blocking.
Routes are planned on offensive plays based on the intended receiver. Two players will never run the same route to the same position on the field.
A quarterback will throw to one receiver on a passing play. If the receiver is covered, the quarterback will look at the other routes.
Due to this, the non-intended receivers’ routes will take into account the intended receiver’s route.
Routes are often run on the same side of the field but at different depths.
The quarterback can see other receiving options without turning to the other side of the field if the intended receiver is covered.
It can also make it more difficult for the defense to cover multiple players on one side of the field.
Running the Route Itself
Now that you know how football routes look, you might be interested in running routes.
The receiver will typically have to work their way past the defender near the line of scrimmage to get their route started. This is referred to as a release.
As soon as the receiver gets his route started, he will travel quickly to where he will cut.
As this is where you will change directions, a cut is one of the most significant aspects of a route.
On many routes, the quarterback will throw the ball immediately after the receiver cuts as this is often when they have the most separation from the defender.
In football, almost every route has a cut and some longer routes have two cuts.
Against man coverage, this can create separation by catching the corner off guard or simply beating them by speed and agility.
Between two zones of coverage, receivers can move unpredictably across the field in hopes of finding an opening.
To learn more about routes in football, see our articles on the stop and go route or the post corner route.