This is part 2 of a lengthy series dedicated to route running.
At Separation School, we will cover the entire route tree. Not just the traditional 1-9 routes, either. We will get in-depth on the specifics of every type of route, from releases to step counts, and how those details change the name and execution of the route itself.
As a collegiate wide receiver coach, I have a passion for the slight, nuanced changes in each route. I’m hoping to cover each and every movement of every route you’d see on a football field.
You can read part 1, examining all types of vertical routes here.
Working our way down the route tree from the "9" route to the "8" route, today we will look at Post patterns.
Introduction to the "Post"
The Post is a vertical passing route generally designed to take the top off the defense in the middle of the field. The route is called the "Post" because the angle of the receiver's break will be directed towards the goalpost. As the game of football has progressed, different variations of the route have been developed. As the traditional post route doesn't require much nuance or deception, the variations allow for more creativity.
Let's get into the examples.
The traditional post route is designed to be thrown down the field, over top of the safety. With the break coming towards the middle of the field, it's a more direct throw for the quarterback than a fade route. Also, the post route attacking the middle of the field can come open against split-safety coverages.
In most offenses, wide receivers are afforded a two-way go against press coverage. This means that it doesn't matter if the receiver uses an inside or outside release, as long as they're able to beat the cornerback vertically.
The wide receiver wants to create an inside window for the throw. While facing "off" coverage, the wide receiver will likely cross face of the cornerback to get inside of them on their break.
Here's an example from South Carolina redshirt senior Deebo Samuel:
You can see Samuel's vertical stem, then break on an angle towards the middle of the field. Samuel does an excellent job of getting inside of the cornerback and over top of the safety playing the middle of the field. There isn't much deception out of Samuel, as he wins this rep with speed and a fluid break.
Here is Nebraska senior Stanley Morgan Jr., running a Post from the slot:
You see Morgan's ability to beat press coverage and stack the defensive back. When a wide receiver is able to stack the defensive back, either from taking an inside or outside release, the Post route will nearly always be open.
"Skinny" Post Route
The difference between a post and "skinny" post is the angle of the route's break. While a traditional post angles towards the goalpost, the break of the skinny post isn't as defined. The skinny post can happen one of two ways:
First, the wide receiver can read a middle of the field safety playing with depth. If the wide receiver won't be able to beat the safety over the top, keeping the break closer to the hashmarks can create a throwing window away from the safety.
Secondly, the skinny post can be designed into the play as a way to create proper spacing and expand zone coverages.
Here is an example of the skinny post from Stanford senior wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside:
Notice how once again, Arcega-Whiteside is able to beat the defensive back to the inside. His route break stays skinny enough and creates a throwing window up the seam, away from the middle of the field safety.
Looking at Arcega-Whiteside's technique, he does an excellent job of taking away the cushion of the cornerback. His uses a jab step to break vertically, threatening outside before separating up the field.
Bang 8 / Glance Route
While the traditional post is designed to hit over top of the safety, the "Bang 8" or "Glance" route is designed to hit underneath of the safety. Technique-wise, the traditional post and "Bang 8" are run similarly, but the differences come at the break.
The wide receiver needs to get his head around and anticipate the ball coming on a line, and have knowledge of where the safety is playing.
Here is another example from Deebo Samuel (you want to listen to the announcer, it's glorious):
On this particular rep, the safety flies downhill to cover the low-hole. This opens up the window for the throw right out of Samuel's break. If the safety stayed at his depth, the throw would need to be underneath him.
"Clown" / "Circle" Post Route
This is where things get fun. The term "Clown" route is from John Fox, while the "Circle Post" is via Mike Shanahan. The break of this route is the same as a post, but the stem is much, much different.
Let's look at two examples from some NFL talent: former all-pro wide receiver Steve Smith and 49ers rookie Dante Pettis (bottom of screen):
With the circle post, the wide receiver needs to take a mandatory inside release. The initial stem is inside on a 45 degree angle, before straightening upfield. At this point, it appears as though the wide receiver has a two-way go.
If the wide receiver were to run towards the corner, the name of it would be a "Burst" Corner, a popular route. The wide receiver takes steps in that direction to sell that they're running the burst corner, then breaks back to the post. This is designed to make the safety start flying over towards the sideline to defend the corner route, opening up the middle of the field for the post break.
"Copper" Route (Corner-Post)
Like the "Circle" post, the "Copper" route also includes a fake to the corner before breaking back to the post. This double move route can be used in a variety of ways, and can be effective no matter the coverage.
Against man coverage on the outside, the double move can be effective to separate away from the cornerback. However, in a cover 2 scenario, the double move can be worked against a safety trying to take away the vertical routes.
Lastly, from the slot. That's where Notre Dame senior receiver Chris Finke used it against Michigan this season:
Finke gets the safety to break on his corner fake, before snapping back to the middle of the field.
The finish was decent, too.
If the circle post is fun, the "Dino" post is a bona-fide fiesta. As far as nuance and creativity goes on post routes, the Dino is the most advanced variation, one step past the "Copper."
The vertical stem is the same as the traditional post. However, on the Dino post route, a receiver will fake the post, then fake the corner, then head back to the post.
Here is how it looks on film, courtesy of Georgia junior wide receiver Riley Ridley:
You can see Ridley's initial break to the post, as he angles towards the middle of the field. The key to keeping this route fluid is to make sure the corner fake is three steps long. This will give the wide receiver an attainable change of direction process, as there are multiple moves to be made.
Another important aspect is to sell each break with the wide receiver's eyes. As the fake to the corner happens, the cornerback will be anticipating a "Post Corner" route, which is a double move. Get the defensive back retreating to cover the corner route, and the middle of the field will open up.
Just for fun, let's take a look at how it looks at the pro level from Michael Crabtree:
There's one major difference between the "Stutter" post and traditional post, and it comes at the break of the route. Rather than using a vertical cut like the one we saw Deebo Samuel and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside do, the wide receiver will use an out-route fake.
Lets see an example from Boston College senior wide receiver Jeff Smith:
The Stutter post is best used against obvious off-man coverage. As Smith gets to the point in his stem where he could break towards an out route, he stutters his feet and flashes his eyes outside. This move does two things for the wide receiver:
First, it gives the indication that Smith is about to run the out route.
Second, it keeps the receiver's his hips pointed forward and in position for the receiver to burst upfield, once the cornerback begins to come downhill to stop the out route.
The final variation is the "Alley" post, which is generally used on a variation of the two man "snag" concept. Usually on that concept, the outside receiver will run a "sit" route, which is a hitch that is angled in. The slot receiver will run a corner route to create spacing.
However, teams have begun to use an alley post in place of the sit route, as safeties will flow over to stop the corner route.
Here is it from Oklahoma junior wide receiver Marquise Brown:
After getting inside and underneath the corner route, the alley post calls for running up the seam and breaking towards the post. Ideally, the middle of the field has been opened up if the safety has vacated it in favor of covering the corner route.
The Post is one of the most effective routes in football because of the multiple variations. Many college offenses will utilize post routes on the majority of passing concepts. With draft prospects running them consistently, how effective each receiver is with this route is a nice measuring stick used to separate prospects.
Stay tuned for part 3, as we will look into the "Post" routes' counterpart, the Corner!