A love of football that branches off into life lessons about leading people.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Blade/Whip Route

The Blade route (Whip route)

There are many routes in a solid passing offense. Foundational routes like a Post, a Corner, a curl and a slant need to exist to vertically spread the defense and open windows to find open receivers. Don’t forget the Out route with its many versions from speed out to quick out. But every now and then, you have to add a mix-up that becomes something the defense has a great deal of trouble covering. The Blade or Whip route is just such a route. Think of it as an out route on steroids!

Every form of passing attack has some way to “outflank” or get outside the defense. Hitting the flat with a speedy receiver is usually an easy way of picking up cheap yards. Using the Blade route, it attacks the flat, but can also attack the defender responsible for the flat by causing hesitation or delay. The other advantage is timing. Whereas a flat route, swing out of the backfield or a quick out attack the flat quickly, the blade route gives a little more time to create space.

For example, on a regular flat route, the receiver from inside attacks the flat zone on the snap. Any other routes that can clear defenders are only given a minimum of time to clear before the QB must throw the flat, otherwise the route runs out of room. That means the QB must decide on the throw earlier which allows more time for the defense to recover and surround the ball after the catch. Think about it from the perspective of a Cover 3 or Cover 4 Corner. He gives ground, backpedaling at the snap while reading the QB drop and the stems of the routes in front of him. If the QB plants his back foot and throws on his 3rd step quickly, the corner is most likely still in a slight backpedal, under control and only 10 yards deep, but ready to break to the flat as soon as the ball is thrown.

The flat defender is already chasing the throw and converging on the receiver. This gives the flat route receiver very little wiggle room to maneuver and make a play in space. It most likely would be a modest gain of 3 to 5 yards.

Now consider the same principle while running a Blade route. Now the route takes about 2 to 3 steps more to develop so the QB can pause slightly, allowing the clearing routes to close the cushion of the corner and force him to turn his hips and “keep from getting beat deep”. At the same time, the flat defender has been forced inside slightly before the receiver’s break. This attack has already created space to free the receiver for yards after the catch. Now when the ball is thrown outside, away from any defender, instead of a 3 yard halo of space to work after the catch (with defenders already closing in) the receiver has a 5 to 7 yard halo of space to get up to speed and make defenders miss tackles in space.
The Blade is great against man coverage; the tighter the better. It also works very well in short yardage against zone. It is nearly impossible to cover on the goalline without some kind of help.

How it works:
The basic premise of the route is to takeoff on a track inside at a 45° angle and break back outside parallel to the Line of Scrimmage (LOS) at 5 yards.
Because of the hard inside angle on the release, any defender has to fight to keep inside leverage which actually puts him at a huge disadvantage if the route is run correctly.
There are 2 keys to this being successful:
1. Getting off the LOS quickly and attacking inside. This move gets the attention of the defender and forces him to maintain inside leverage. If he vacates to cover outside, he is allowing the next inside defender to pick up the route. In this case, cut off the “out” portion of the route to settle in between defenders in a zone.
2. Using proper footwork to create the space. A normal quick or speed out uses a speed cut to get to the outside or a breakdown chop with an inside foot push to move outside. This footwork can be devastating when perfected, but is completely ineffective and too slow to be successful in a blade route.
Remember that on a regular out route, the release is vertical, perpendicular to the LOS and the cut forms a perfect right angle. On a Blade, the release is inside at 45°, so trying to plant and re-direct the route back to the sideline from this angle is too slow. This is where the receiver uses the “reverse pivot” footwork.
To reverse pivot, when the receiver reaches his breakpoint, his outside foot must be forward (ie. Running a Blade route on the left side of the formation means the left foot is the outside foot, on the right….well you get it). Once the left foot is forward here is the progression:
a. The hips drop to maintain control over the body’s motion

b. The inside leg must “whip” around in the direction of the next step
c. After the leg whips around, the foot must plant with the toes pointing in the direction of the step, particularly for this route, the sideline.
d. After the inside leg whips and the foot plants, the outside leg must drive the knee in the direction of the movement. This is a key step because it helps twist the torso toward the sideline and change direction more quickly.

*A common problem with the back leg in this “spin” is not driving the knee, but swinging the back leg. This is slower and will cause receivers to correct their direction with a 3rd step instead of being set up on 2 steps.

e. Because the spin opens outside, the receiver’s head and eyes naturally find the QB when the break occurs. The re-direction with proper footwork also creates separation from the defender more easily than a speed cut.

When to use the Blade
One on one matchups with a single receiver played closely by a defender are the ideal time, but since this is hardly the norm and can be a hard angle to throw outside, this route is best used with a second receiver.

On a Twins side, the outside receiver simply needs to clear the defender who could help in the flat by running a Go or Post. Even a 10-12 yard Cross would allow the Blade to open effectively in the flat.

From Trips, the #2 or #3 receiver could run it, as long as the other attacks the same defender. For example, having the #3 run a Blade route while the #2 runs a 10 yard cross would not be a great combination because the flat defender can simply play under and outside the Blade knowing that he has inside help. At the same time, the inside defender, usually responsible for hook/curl can play underneath the cross and effectively render the combination useless.

A sound combination to use would be a Blade route with a 10 yard out. This forces the same defender to choose which receiver to cover (Key reading for those that read my earlier post) and effectively play “Monkey in the Middle”

Here are some Video clips that will help further explain:

The last route run is a Blade/Whip

This route is on air, but it shows some up close angles

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