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.
An option route is a pass pattern, commonly run from the slot in the Erhardt-Perkins scheme. Rather than a predetermined route, the receiver instead must read the defensive coverage and make a post-snap decision. The receiver adjusts the direction he will cut at the top of his stem based on the leverage of the nearest pass defender and the coverage scheme employed.
The goal of the receiver is to identify the best option for the quarterback, and execute the pattern adjustment for that coverage. Typically, he will cut in or out –away from a man-to-man defender’s leverage – or settle into the area between zone defenders:
The option route requires players that are able to read coverage schemes in a split-second. Receivers must see the same defensive deployment in the same way as the quarterback, because the pass may need to be thrown before the receiver’s break. Most option routes rely on short-area quickness and precise footwork rather than elite speed or size.
Source: Patriots offensive playbook 2004
The New England Patriots have enjoyed terrific success with option routes, getting prolific production out of smaller receivers Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman. The advantage of the option route is that the receiver has the flexibility to make the cut that is most likely to get him open, thus allowing for easy completions.
San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green (#89) runs an option route, aiming his stem right at linebacker Vincent Rey (#57). Had the Bengals dropped into zone coverage, Green would simply settle in a spot between the linebackers on a curl route. But as the tight end throttles down and pivots back to his quarterback, he reads the man coverage and makes the right read – breaking to the outside and away from Rey:
The linebacker cannot break under the well-placed throw from Chargers QB Philip Rivers, and the tight end hauls in the football and turns upfield for a very nice gain.
Here the Baltimore Ravens use the option route against the Cover 3 zone defense of the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens run a triangle concept here. Maxx Williams (#87), the inside trips receiver, runs a short out route while Marlon Brown (#14) runs a deep curl route. Tight end Crockett Gillmore (#80) attacks the middle of the field, running at the linebackers in coverage:
As the two linebackers drop into underneath zones, Gillmore settles between them, doing a good job of using his body to shield Curtis Lofton (#50) from the football as quarterback Joe Flacco delivers the pass.