The following is an excerpt from a comprehensive article breaking down Josh Gordon’s fit in the Hue Jackson pass-game posted at the Orange and Brown Report.
The ‘X’ receiver is in often in a unique position to run vertical routes due to the strength of the coverage generally being pushed to the opposite side, leaving the cornerback in one-on-one coverage with no deep help. Big, strong, fast wide receivers like A.J. Green and Josh Gordon feast in this spot.
Green caught a 73-yard touchdown in a week-five victory over the Seattle Seahawks running a ‘Go’ route against man coverage–although the play was called back for holding on the offensive line–on the backside of a ‘Trey’ formation (two wide receivers and one tight end to a single-side of the field).
The Seahawk’s are bringing five-man pressure, playing a 3-deep, 3-under coverage behind the blitz. Because the Bengals’ have three receivers to one side of the field, the defense ‘rolls’ (brings more defenders over) the coverage to the strength of the formation, appearing to force Green’s defender to play MEG (Man Everywhere He Goes) technique. This is a perfect spot for a nine route as Green should consistently beat the defensive back off the line of scrimmage , with the safety’s alignment just inside the left hash making it highly unlikely he can affect the play.
Green creates separation due to his outstanding release at the line of scrimmage. Let’s slow down the film to look at how he gets open and get into some route-running basics.
It all starts with the stance:
- Wide receivers align with the inside foot up to avoid exposing the chest directly to a jam and because many inside-breaking three-step routes like the slant and hitch should stem (break) on the receiver’s third step. By placing the inside foot up, the receiver’s third step will be made with his outside foot, allowing him to break inside without wasted steps (receivers always break with the foot opposite the route’s direction). The back foot should be one to two feet behind the front foot, with the heel slightly off the ground. The knee should be bent forward over the toe, with 70%-80% of the body weight resting on the ball of the foot (where the shoestrings end).
- The shoulders are square and the back is bent to create a straight line from the top of the helmet to the bottom of the back.
- Hands and arms can be relaxed at the side or raised depending on player preference. Against a hard corner, the arms should be at least ¼ up as the receiver will need to hand fight (club/rip, club/swim, etc.)
- Head and chin are turned slightly inside to watch the snap of the ball as receivers often cannot hear the snap count.
Moving on to the release….
- The hands and feet must work together. This becomes more important when facing press as the receiver will need to hand fight in order to counter the defensive back’s jam.
- At the snap roll off the back foot while exploding off the front. The receiver must not raise the front foot off the ground before exploding,known as ‘false stepping’. False stepping slows the route down and opens the receiver to a jam. Remain low through the explosion like a track and field sprinter in order to generate maximum force.
- From here the footwork takes over. Wide receivers use a variety of footwork to create ‘clean releases’ off the line of scrimmage. Jap steps away from the intended release point are very popular. The receiver must ALWAYS use the foot opposite the break (left foot if breaking right), otherwise he will lose his center of gravity and be unable to make a hard, sharp cut.
Green uses four steps to get hip-to-hip with the cornerback. His first step brings his outside foot parallel to his inside foot, squaring his body to set up a two-way go (can release inside or outside), while his second step is a hard push off his inside foot to cross the defender’s face back outside. The third and fourth steps put Green even with the defender’s hips, forcing him to ‘open the gate’ without executing a route-disrupting jam.
Now let’s speed it up to real time:
Note the slight movement Green’s lead foot makes at the snap. This could be a false step, but is more likely a technique he uses to bring his feet parallel to create the illusion of a two-way go before breaking across the defender’s face.