ITP Glossary: Working Progressions

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From trips to press man, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Working Progressions

On passing plays, the quarterback has a series of “reads” a pre-determined order of operations based on the pass pattern each receiver runs.  Depending on the route structure and the coverage strategy employed by the secondary, the quarterback begins with his first, or primary, read and if necessary works through his progressions until he finds an open receiver.

Here’s an example of what this looks like on film:alabama-progressions-anno

Arkansas runs the Stick Concept here, with the tight end and one receiver running curl routes while another receiver runs a short out route. The quarterback first checks the TE on the curl route before hitting the receiver’s curl route.

To explain this further, here is some chalk talk: The offense has 12 offensive personnel in a 2X2 alignment ‒ a wide receiver and tight end to each side of the formation. At the top of the still ‒ the offensive right ‒ the Z receiver runs a comeback route. The in-line tight end to the that side runs a post route. The X receiver (bottom of the frame) runs an identical comeback on the left. The tight end ‒ who is a step back from the line ‒ runs a short flat route. The tailback first checks protection, then heads to the flat on the right:ProgressionsStill1Playart

Now, if the defense were to run Cover 3 on this play, the quarterback’s first read on this play is to the weak-side of the field:ProgressionsStill2Cover3

This sets up a nice look on the left. The deep comeback route is nice against Cover 3, as the outside defensive back does not expect help deep and must run with the WR. He will need to recover quickly when the receiver stops and “comes back” to the ball.

But if that route is covered, the quarterback then looks at the tight end in the left flat who – hopefully – has a step on the linebacker.

Here is the same play, against Cover 2:ProgressionsStill3Cover2

Now, the quarterback reads this play to the right side of the field. The first read is the tight end’s post route. A post is a nice option against Cover 2, especially if the two deep safeties widen at the snap to cover the vertical looking comeback patterns outside.

If the safeties stay home in the middle of the field, then this play sets up a nice high-low on the CB to the outside, with Z receiver on the comeback, followed by the running back.

Here is a look of former Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke (now a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings) working through progressions:Heinicke-progressions

Mark Schofield contributed to this entry.

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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 NFL Game Pass and/or Game Rewind.

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