ITP Glossary: Trips

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to 0 technique, commentators and writers rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary takes you inside part of the game you may be missing.

Trips Formation

Trips, usually followed by the designation “left” or “right” is short for “triple,” and refers to formations that line three receivers up on one side of the ball with at least two of the receivers playing off the line to preserve pass-catching eligibility. The goal of such a formation is to create a mismatch against the defense, such as when a LB is forced to cover a WR or a CB draws a TE, or to draw defenders away from the true focus of the play on the other side of the ball. By the same token, trips formations suffer from the risks associated with other offensive overload formations, such as having fewer blockers and a clustering of defensive players on that side of the field. Trips should not be confused with “bunch,” also known as “clustered” formations which is a more specific grouping of three or more receivers lined up close together in a “bunch.”

In the below example, the New England Patriots align with trips to the left of the formation, using 11 Personnel. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is in a wing alignment outside the left tackle, while Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola line up to the outside.


Trips can refer to a formation using a tight end and two wide receivers, or a formation using three wide receivers to one side of the field. The basic element is three eligible receivers to one side of the field. Teams can vary the terminology for the formation depending on personnel, using designations such as “trey” or “trio” to refer to either one TE and two WRs, or two TEs and one WR. In the below example, the University of Montana Grizzlies has trips to the left using 10 personnel, with three WRs making up the trips:


One of the benefits of trips formation is that an offense can create advantageous scenarios on either side of the field. The offense can play the numbers to the trips side of the formation and use crossing routes or rub routes to create mismatches and free up receivers. Or, if the defense rolls their coverage to the trips side of the field, an offense can exploit single coverage on the weak-side. Here, the Florida State Seminoles catch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Cover 0 with the secondary shaded towards trips, and attack the weak-side of the field on a post route:

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The ITP Glossary is curated by Mark Brown. Others contributing to this entry are Mark Schofield and James Mastrangelo.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy the NFL, NFL Game Rewind, ESPN and the WatchESPN app.

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