ITP Glossary: Dagger Concept

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From 12 personnel to press man coverage, 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.

Dagger Concept

The dagger concept is a passing game route combination commonly used in college and NFL playbooks. Dagger is a 3-man combination involving a vertical route from the slot receiver, a drag from the weak side for a horizontal stretch, and a 15-yard deep dig or square-in from the primary receiver.

Depending on the coverage, the slot receiver must look to take the top off the defense, clearing out as much of the middle of the field as possible. Often times the vertical bends a bit, towards the post, to occupy defenders. Here is a traditional dagger concept from the Minnesota Vikings:

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Against Cover 1, the vertical should occupy the man defender, as well as the centerfield free safety. The FS should also be occupied against Cover 3.

Against Cover 2 or Cover 4, the vertical route should clear out the play side 2-high safety. Finally, Against Tampa 2 the vertical gets the attention of both the middle linebacker and the play side safety.

Once the slot receiver has occupied as many defenders as possible, the dagger becomes a high-low read between the drag route and the dig. The drag should stretch the field horizontally as much as possible, attracting linebackers and hopefully opening up the dig behind him.

Dagger can also be run from a trips look, with the most inside eligible receiver often a tight end or H-back serving as the horizontal stretch to open up the dig.

Note that here, just like the Vikings picture above, the backside receiver can run many different routes, including a curl, fade, slant, comeback, corner, or deep out. The key is still to keep the deep half or deep middle safety from the middle of the field:

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Because the dig (or square-in) is the primary target, look for the dagger concept to be used in 2nd and long as well as 3rd and 8+, because it is a great way to get an intermediate throw with room for yards after the catch into the middle of the field. While protection must hold for the dig route to come open, the result can be a first down ‒ or more.

Daniel Syed wrote this entry. It was originally adapted from here. See his other work here.

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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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