This is part 3 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.
Part 2 focusing on the post route can be found here.
Working our way down the route tree from the “9” route to the “8” route and now to the "7", today we will look at corner routes.
Introduction to the “Corner”
The corner route is a vertical passing route designed to stretch the defense both vertically and horizontally. The route is called the "corner" because the angle of the receiver's break will be directed towards the corners of the field. There are different variations of the corner route, as the slight changes allow for more creativity.
The amount of variations for the corner route are more limited than the post route, as there is more space to modify breaks and angles on in-breaking routes.
Let’s get into the examples.
The traditional corner route is a 5-7 step route with a vertical cut towards the sideline. The route can be ran from nearly any alignment, with the slight adjustment being the difference in angle.
From the slot, the corner route is used on various passing concepts: flood, smash, snag, double-china 7, etc.
Here's an example from 49ers rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis:
From the endzone view of this route, you can see the minor details that allowed Pettis to separate from cornerback Mike Hughes.
Rather than run 7 consecutive steps vertically, Pettis adjusts his angle inside directly at Hughes. This adjustment in his angle threatens a two-way go at the top of Pettis' stem. To further move Hughes inside, Pettis uses a "rocker" step (two consecutive steps outside of his hips while shifting his hips to either side). Pettis finishes his rocker step by driving off his inside foot right on the toes of Hughes, putting the defensive back on to his heels and unable to transition in order remain in phase with Pettis.
Here's another example of a corner route from Ohio State's Terry McLaurin:
McLaurin angles his initial stem at the safety, in order to hold him in his alignment. This maintains the space between the safety and the sideline. McLaurin keeps his break to the corner at a high angle, in order to keep the throw vertically of the cornerback playing cover-2.
While the corner route that we saw Pettis run had a threaten to the inside, the "post-corner" route has a more defined fake.
The post-corner can be run from the slot, but is more often seen along the boundary. As we noted in part 2 of separation school, the post route is one of the most commonly used routes in football. The post-corner uses this knowledge against the defense, with a fake to the post to get defensive backs covering towards the middle of the field.
In most offenses, the post route is afforded a free release, meaning the wide receiver can choose whether to release inside or outside depending on the leverage of the defensive back. Generally, the same goes for the post-corner route.
Here's an example of the post-corner route with an inside release from Dante Pettis when he was in college at Washington:
The principles of the post-corner route are the same when operating against off-coverage. Here's an example from Chiefs rookie wide receiver Byron Pringle when he was at Kansas State:
In order to truly "sell" the post portion of the post-corner, a wide receiver needs to break like they are trying to accelerate to the middle of the field. Along with their acceleration, flashing their eyes to the quarterback will show the defensive back that the receiver is expecting the ball to be thrown to the post.
It's important for receivers to expect contact when making a double move, as the defensive back is likely closing on their break to the post. Additionally, their change of direction to the corner route will come on a 90 degree break.
The "burst corner" is a route used on passing concepts such as divide, sail and others. The burst corner route starts at the line of scrimmage, with a mandatory inside release. The angle of the release will be inside at a 45 degree angle, before redirecting the stem vertically.
When getting to the top of the stem, there is the threaten of a two way go. Here's an example from Georgia's Riley Ridley:
Working against off coverage, Ridley's initial stem to the inside makes the defensive back drive towards his route. When Ridley gets to the top of his stem, the defensive back's hips are pointed towards the middle of the field, creating separation for Ridley's break to the corner.
Here's another example of the burst corner from Vikings' wide receiver Adam Thielen:
The difference between Ridley and Thielen's route is the coverage being played against them. As Thielen gets to the top of his stem, the defensive back is playing on his hip. Thielen fakes to the post by opening his hips and selling it with his eyes. The defensive back sees this fake, and starts working to cover the post route, opening Thielen's break to the corner.
The corner route has a limited amount of variation, but is a useful route in order to flood the boundary and stretch the defense. When defenses play single-high coverages, the corner route forces maximum range out of the safety in order to properly cover them.
Make sure you keep your eyes out for part 4 of separation school!