Improve Fundamentals in the Off Season: Three Drills to Improve Wide Receivers Route Running
With the 2010 football season behind us millions of young men around the United States have placed their focus and attention on getting bigger, stronger and faster in the weight room. Football coaches at every level are encouraging their players to commit to their off season strength programs. Players are lifting weights anywhere between three to four times a week. The effort that the players are given can be heard in any weight room with the sounds of the weight plates clinging, or the groans of the players pushing the weight. But, as important as weight lifting is to increase the player’s strength and reduce the risk of injuries, improvement of the fundamentals of football in the off season is equally as important. During the next three months we will implement ways to improve the fundamental skills of football during the off season and strength and conditioning sessions.
Wide Receivers Route Running: Deceleration into Cuts and Breaks
The first thing that the athletes need to understand when running perfect routes is how to get into and out of all cuts and breaks. Cuts and breaks are defined as the ability to start, stop and change directions rapidly and efficiently. There are two main components when performing the cuts and breaks are deceleration and acceleration. Deceleration by definition is to reduce speed and slow down. Most athletic injuries take place when athletes are attempting to reduce speed or performing cutting or breaking movements. The ACL is located in the front part of the center of the knee joint. This ligament is a very important stabilizer of the femur on the tibia and serves to prevent the tibia from rotating and sliding forward during deceleration activities. The athlete must first learn how to absorb and reduce force on the joint to perform a perfect cut or break. When training the wide receivers in deceleration we want to use two phrase words, center of gravity and base of support. About two and one half yards from the cut or break we want the wide receiver to lower his center of gravity (located at the mid drift). The wide receiver begins by dropping his hips and flexing his knees to his base of support (an imaginary box around his feet). Lowering the center of gravity to the base of support will reduce the amount of force on the ACL and quads, and allow the hamstrings to activate. The quicker the wide receiver can perform this action the faster he can get into his breaks.
Wide Receivers Route Running: Acceleration out of Cuts and Breaks
The second and just as important part of all cuts and breaks is acceleration. According to the World English Dictionary, “Acceleration is the rate at which something increases in velocity.” Once the wide receiver decelerates and makes the cut or break he then needs to be prepared to accelerate again. To perform this act the wide receiver needs to get into a good forward lean, by pumping his arms aggressively from eye socket to back pocket. Knees need to be punched outside of the center of gravity and mash the calf to the hamstring while locking the ankles (pulling the toes to the shin). The head must stay in a neutral position, which means looking slightly down.
Wide Receivers Route Running: Drills Performed to improve Cuts and Breaks
The purpose of the drill is to teach and practice the proper fundamentals and techniques of coming off a cut or break at full speed. The wide receiver will run full speed and come under control approximately two and one half yards from each cone. On all cuts and breaks receivers will lower the center of gravity to the base of support, head must stay up and elbows in tight. The wide receiver must explode out of all breaks pumping the arms from eye socket to back pocket aggressively and getting the head around as quickly as possible. All cuts and breaks need to be made in straight lines, no arches or circles.
90 Degree Breaks
Purpose: To teach and practice the proper fundamentals and techniques of coming off a 90 degree break at full speed.
- Align four cones ten yards apart in a square. Place 3 cones 6-12 inches behind the 3 cones. Shown in the diagram.
- Position all tight ends in a straight line behind one of the cones.
- On command tight end accelerates down to the first cone and makes the proper 90 degree break around the cone. Accelerate to the second and third cone performing the 90 degree square cut.
Coaching points: focus on making sharp breaks, by keeping straight lines no arches or circles. During the break the center of gravity needs to drop to allow the hamstrings to decelerate. Keeping the feet under the hips the tight end needs to plant and push of the outside leg. Not allowing the feet to get outside the farthest cone. Explode out of the break pumping the arms. Repeat the drill to the left side.
45 / 90 degree Breaks
Purpose: To teach and practice the proper fundamentals and techniques of coming off a 45 degree break and transfer it into a proper 90 degree break at full speed.
- Align four cones ten yards apart in a square.
- Place all the wide receivers in a straight line behind one of the cones.
- On command the wide receiver accelerates down to the first cone and makes the proper 45 degree cut. The tight end then accelerates to the next cone making a proper 90 degree break. And repeats until the drill is finished.
Coaching Points: Focus on making sharp cuts and breaks, by keeping straight lines no arches or circles. During the break the center of gravity needs to drop to allow the hamstrings to decelerate. Keeping the feet under the hips the wide receiver needs to plant and push off the outside leg. The inside foot needs to be placed in the direction of the next cone. Punch the knees outside the center of gravity to accelerate to the next cone.
Purpose: To coach and practice the proper fundamentals and techniques to making a 180 degree break using the proper open hip low knee step over.
1. Align three cones in a row five yards apart. Place one cone about 3 to 4 yards across from the middle cone.
2. Position all the wide receivers in a straight line behind the first cone.
3. On command the wide receiver accelerates down to the third cone, performs a 180 degree break and accelerates to the middle cone. Then breaks at 90 degrees to the far cone decelerating and breaking again at 180 degrees. Drill is repeated threw the finial cone.
Coaching Points: Focus on making sharp cuts and breaks, by keeping straight lines no arches or circles. When performing the 180 degree break, make sure the wide receiver lowers his center of gravity to base of support. While the center of gravity is low the tight end chops the feet as quickly as possible to minimize slowing down. The tight end then opens the hip to the break side, placing the foot greater than 90 degrees, and performs a low knee step over to keep a straight line.
Final Thoughts: Drill Implementation
Not only do we need to improve our athlete’s strength in the off season but we must continue to improve the fundamentals of football. Perform drill work three to four days a week in conjunction with the strength training sessions. All drill work should be performed before any strength workouts to prevent injury. Whether we coach Youth, High School, College or Pros we need to develop muscle memory related to each position skills and group year around.