Today we are launching a new article series called TOJ Football School, where we will provide a basic overview of a football concept, position or play commonly seen throughout the NFL. We will start with four verticals. In future editions, we will look at other route combinations, the different techniques on the defensive line, various types of blocks from offensive lineman and how coverage schemes vary.
What does it look like in action?
The Xs and Os (Via @WarRoomEagle)
What is it? It is exactly what it sounds like: a route concept that sends four eligible receivers on vertical routes. Two receivers go vertical down the seam (generally a tight end, slot receiver or running back who motions to the slot) and two receivers go vertical down the bottom of the numbers. The most important parts of this play are spacing and a smart “seam reader” who recognizes when to bend his route into the open window against a zone coverage.Without getting into too much detail on different coverages, if a defense is showing one high safety, the “seam reader” should have a large open area to bend his route into when he beats the linebacker in coverage (see Jeff Cumberland’s big play above).
If a defense is running a more traditional cover 2, the outside receivers should have the opportunity for completions on “hole shots,” basically the open window outside the numbers when he gets past the cornerback, before the safety gets over to help. This is shown well below via Niners Nation. Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have proper timing or accuracy here, if he wanted the hole shot, he should have went to the receiver at the bottom of the screen and would have needed to throw the ball on a line as soon as he passed the squat corner. Beyond that, he could have attempted to drop it in to an open Veron Davis, if the safety was going to range to the outside vertical route.
Teams can get creative with the releases and pre-snap positioning of this play.
The outside receivers will also frequently have the option to snap their route back into a comeback at 12-14 yards if they can’t get over the top of the corner in man coverage.
Overall This is a generally simple route concept that is part of every team’s passing playbook from high school, to college, to the NFL. It provides the opportunity for a big play, as the offense is betting on their “seam reader” being able to find a soft spot in the middle of the field against the zone, their quarterback being able to hit a hole shot versus cover 2 or one of their outside receivers being able to win one on one versus the cornerback.
For The Jets? If Geno Smith is the quarterback, this is a concept he ran frequently at West Virgina University and has had some success with so far in the NFL. Without question, this concept will be used by Chan Gailey. Here is Ryan Fitzpatrick hitting Stevie Johnson for a touchdown against the Jets in 2012 on a version of it. If the Jets somehow ended up with Marcus Mariota, this was also frequently used at Oregon. As for the receivers, don’t be shocked to see Brandon Marshall potentially used in the “seam reader” role or Jace Amaro.