The Smash route has been one of our 'bread & butter' plays for the better part of 8 years now. It is the very first dropback concept we install each spring and fall. It gets the most reps of any of our passing concepts. We will typically run this route anywhere from 7 to 10 times a game. We feel that the subtle variations & adjustments within the route give us the ability to run this play versus any type of defensive coverage scheme. The basics of the route are no different than any other smash route. However, the techniques involved may be slightly different than the traditional routes.
The Basic Route Descriptions
The playside-outside receiver (runs what we refer to as a 'smash' route) has the #1 responsibility to "keep the corner low." The basic techniqe of the route is to run to a depth of 7 yards, stop and turn in to the QB. His eyes should find the flat defender. What the smash guy does next will be determined by what the flat defender does. If the flat defender "sits", the receiver will also "sit." If the flat defender "drifts" out, the receiver will "drift" out. If the defender is "flying" out to the flat, the receiver will "fly" past the defender inside to the vacated area.
The playside-inside receiver runs a flag route (we refer to a "flag" as being run by an inside receiver and a "corner" as a route run by an outside receiver). The length of his stem is determined by a few factors:
* 1-high safety with soft coverage (zone) he will push the stem to 12 yards then break to the corner
* 2-high safeties he will run through 10 yards, post stem, then break to the corner
* he is pressed and #1 is pressed, run through 8 & break to corner.
The backside-inside receiver runs what we refer to as a "tube-read". Meaning, he will press vertical to the outside part of the hash to 10 yards. If the middle of the field is closed (a defender is stationed between the hashes) he will continue down the seam. If the middle of the field is open (no defender between the hashes) he will "tube" inside - break to the post.
The backside-outside receiver runs a dig route. He will run through 10 yards, post to 12 yards, then break inside and work to "empty grass" at a depth of 12-15 yards. Versus MOFC he may settle nearer the hash but versus MOFO he may continue more into the middle of the field.
Breaking Down the Smash Route
Like I stated earlier, the outside receiver's main priority is to keep the corner low. After that, he will adjust his route to get open. This is really a very simple concept we all learned from our days playing backyard football. It is as simple as "He's there, I go here. he's here, I'll go there."
The inside receiver's job is to push vertical, break vertical, then run to the ball as the QB "throws him open." He must recognize whether there are 2 safeties high or 1 safety high. He must also determine the depth of the corner pre-snap to aid him in determing if he should break the route shorter (i.e. it's man so he must break away sooner as QB will be unloading sooner).
The outside receiver must recognize the depth of the corner over him at both pre-snap and within his first 3 steps of the route. The depth at which he makes the stem will be determined by the depth of the corner. Typical 'zone' depths are 4 to 8 yards before squaring to the QB. Upon his "square" he must identify the defender that is responsible for the flat. While this may sound difficult, it is really only a matter of determing "Did the corner stay with me?" If yes, then he's flat defender work away. If no, then find the first defender inside and adjust your route based on his movement.
Diagram 1 shows a typical Cover 3 alignment. In this example, the corner has aligned at a depth of about 9-10 yards. The flat defender (the SS here) has "drifted" with #2 and stay more in the curl lane rather than run out to the flat. The outside receiver should simply stay at 7 yards and gradually drift out. The inside receiver should start his stem at the outside shoulder of the #2 defender. He must be careful not to get "flattened" out on his stem - i.e. let the defender jam him and keep him from getting back on top of his stem path. Since there is a 1-high safety there is no need for him to make a significant post fake. He must try to "stack" the defender over him. Meaning, he must attack the outside hip, then try to run past the defender and climb back on the imaginary line that his his vertical stem. This is important if the coverage becomes man so that the defender will turn both hips to our end zone as he must be aware of #2 going vertical or post -- which aids in gaining separation when #2 breaks to the corner.
The pace at which he drifts should mirror that of the defender drifting to him. More often than not, the ball will be gone before he actually starts to drift. This is why it is imperative that the receiver stop and square to the QB then identify the flat defender before adjusting his route. The QB may be "throwing him open" as he hits the end of the stem. Patience is a very important virtue of this route. The inside receiver should break vertical. We want him to break deeper rather than flatter. He should have recognized that it was Cover 3 so we want to really stretch the corner. The majority of the time, the ball will be thrown underneath so his route must help in keeping the corner out of the play.
Diagram 2 shows the adjustment if the flat defender (in Cover 3) were to work fast to the flat. The receiver will still push to 7 yards, stop, and square to the QB. This "reels" in the defender. After that quick 'pause', the receiver will break inside past the defender and expect the ball. Nothing will really change about #2's route. He will start at the outside hip, but since the defender was flying out he will get on his vertical stem quickly.
Diagram 3 shows how the routes will be adjusted versus press coverage. The outside receiver will adjust to an "under" route. He will begin his route by attacking the defender as if he were running a fade. He'll "battle" for 2 to 3 yards then break under and inside looking for the ball. His angle is similar to a slant but slighlty flatter. If the inside receiver is pressed, he'll shorten his route to 9 or 10 yards. Again, he must attack the outside hip of the defender and 'stack' him as he runs by. He must snap his head around immediately after breaking to the corner to find the ball as it may already be in the air.
Diagram 4 gives an example of the route versus a Cover 2 look. The outside receiver will not need to take his route much deeper than 4 or 5 yards since the corner is already "low." Once he stops and squares, he should break inside if he feels the corner on his back as the receiver is "covered" in the flat. He should look for a window between the cornerback and the dropping linebacker. The inside receiver will run through 10 yards, give a post or inside move, then break to the corner. His first 3 steps should still be vertical then be prepared to bend flat and snap his head around as the QB will throw him open.
Diagram 5 shows how it may look versus a blitz by the defender aligned over our inside reciever. If, as he starts his route, #2 sees the defender inside him (or over him) disappear inside on a blitz he must snap his head to the QB and expect the ball. If he doesn't receive the ball he will push to 8-9 yards and break to the corner. Again, he must snap his head around as soon as he makes his flag cut. The specifics of the outside receiver's route will still be determined by the depth of the corner and whether or not he's "covered" in the flat. In the example, the corner is pressed so #1 should run an under route.
The main thing about this route, for us, is that the receivers understand the subtle adjustments they must make. We try to teach it in such a manner that is easy to comprehend ("we're playing keep away from the defender"). I have not discussed the QB reads as they are not drastically different than how you may teach him. The premise of this article was to show how we adjust the playside routes versus various looks the defense may give us.
I apology for being "short" with this, but I am not as gifted with the written word. I will gladly go into more specific detail with anyone. Feel free to email me or send me a pm with a question you might have.