Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, 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.
Hit and Throw
Once the quarterback reaches his depth on the drop back, he has two means of setting his feet to deliver a throw: One method is the hitch step; The other is called “hit and throw.” This latter technique is used on one- and three-step drops when the quarterback is throwing a shorter route, such as a slant or a quick out, and timing is critical to the success of the play. Rather than hitting the final step and hitching forward, when the QB hits his final step he simply plants the back foot and drives forward to begin the throwing motion. Thus, he begins his throw just as he “hits” his last step.
Our first example comes from quarterback Chris Bonner (#12), formerly of CSU-Pueblo and now a recent draft choice by MLFB. Here, the QB executes a three-step drop before throwing a quick route to his left. Pay attention to his right foot: Once he hits the third step, he starts the throwing motion:
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Bonner drives that third step into the turf and immediately begins the throwing motion. The footwork and timing allow for a very easy completion to his receiver on the quick route.
Here Jameis Winston (#3) uses a three-step drop from center to execute a nice play on a slant / flat concept. The Buccaneers face 3rd and 21 on their own 45-yard line. They line up with 11 offensive personnel, Winston in the shotgun, and a 2X2 formation. On the backside they employ a standard slot alignment and run the curl / slant combination: The outside receiver is lined up on the bottom of the numbers to give him space when he cuts inside on the slant, while the slot WR splits the difference between the receiver and the left tackle. Playside, Vincent Jackson (#83) and tight end Cameron Brate (#84) are in a tight slot formation, with the TE to the inside and Jackson aligned on the top of the numbers:
Winston’s key is linebacker Thomas Davis (#58), who lines up over Brate before the snap. If the LB settles into an underneath zone, he will take away the slant route from Jackson and the QB will need to look outside to the tight end. But as the QB drops, he sees the playside cornerback dropping deep. This means Davis is responsible for that outside flat zone and will break with Brate on the flat route, freeing Jackson on the slant. Again, pay attention to his footwork – in particular his right foot.
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Davis waits as long as possible before cutting with the TE outside, but Winston reads this perfectly and delivers the football to Jackson who nearly picks up the first down. Once that third step is hit, the QB begins the throwing motion, driving his foot into the turf and exploding forward with power and torque. Again, the timing, and the usage of “hit and throw” allows for an easy completion.
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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Video and images courtesy Draft Breakdowns and NFL GamePass.