Friday, June 27, 2008

Why 7 on 7?...Receivers

This is the second of a series of articles about reasons why teams should participate in 7-on-7 football during the summer. This article discusses the benefits for receivers participating in 7-on-7 competitions.

From the time kids begin playing football, they practice being receivers. From running routes for their dad, brother, or other buddies, they are learning to catch the football. All successful receivers must practice catching the ball as often as possible which can be done just about anywhere. However, 7-on-7 competitions give receivers access to practice many other aspects of their job. Learning the offense, adjusting routes, and catching the ball against a defender are just some of those.

Although some basic offenses are simply a route numbering system for receivers, many of the spread offenses are so complex that the athletes must diligently study their playbooks in order to know how to run the plays. Still this doesn’t enlighten them to all they need to know about a play. The receivers have to understand how to run a route based on the combination route that a fellow receiver is running as well as the coverage of the secondary or linebackers. Talking about and writing all this information up on a white board is helpful, but true understanding comes when a receiver is able to experience these things live.

One of the most important things receivers learn from 7-on-7 is how they have to run routes based on a defense. Many kids will learn their routes, but are ineffective in games because they do simply that – run the route. Here is an example.

This is a five-receiver set in which we are running 3 verticals against a cover 2. The read will be for one of the inside receivers on the strong side. The weak #2 receiver is running a flag to pull the weak-side safety. The #3 receiver has to get inside the strong-side safety, then get vertical so he doesn’t get to the other safety and has to get over the dropping linebacker. The strong #2 receiver has to get deep and stay outside the safety, but cannot get too far outside to draw the flat corner deep. The other key is for these receivers not to get caught up with any linebackers that can knock them off of their route. Good route running will give the quarterback an easy read of the strong safety and an easy completion down the field.

Here is the same play against a cover 3. Everyone has the same assigned route, but our #3 and #2 receivers on the strong side have to run their route a little differently. First, they will both may have a defender lined up on them that they will have to maneuver against. For instance, #2 needs to know that in cover 3, that SS will have flats, so he will need to get inside of him but then will need to get vertical keeping two things in mind: first, stay away from the free safety and second, get far enough inside the cornerback who is playing the deep outside third. The #3 receiver must get off of the linebacker and go hard in front of the free safety. Again, as long as the receivers are not held up by the underneath coverage and they run good routes, this is an easy completion for the quarterback.

Another plus of 7-on-7 for receivers is catching a ball in the presence of defenders. Most receiving drills are simply for catching the ball, maybe sometimes a distraction is thrown in, but rarely are there drills ran with a receiver having to catch a ball over a defender or with defenders going after the ball as well. Being able to make a grab in traffic is one key for finding out who can be relied on in a game situation. A player may have the best hands on the team, but if he chokes in a game situation, it would be nice to find that out in the summer as opposed to when football begins.

Although there are several other benefits of 7-on-7 for receivers, we believe the greatest are the three discussed above. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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