ITP Glossary: Dig Route

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.

The dig route is one of the basic pass routes in football. On this pattern, the receiver starts downfield on a vertical stem, before breaking across the middle of the field at a 90 degree angle, typically 12-15 yards downfield. This route is often used in conjunction with other patterns in a number of passing concepts, including the drive concept and the Mills concept.

In this first example, Washington runs an NCAA Mills concept, which incorporates a post route, a dig route and a shallow drag route. In their game against the Buffalo Bills, Washington faces 1st and 10 on the opponent’s 32-yard line. They line up with Kirk Cousins (#8) in the shotgun and 11 personnel on the field, with DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed in pro alignment to the left, while Jamison Crowder (#80) and Pierre Garcon are in an inverted slot to the right. Buffalo has their 4-2-5 nickel defense on the field with a single-high safety look. One cornerback is in press alignment over Garcon:WashingtonPreviewStill7

Jackson runs the post route, while Reed runs the dig route. This is the Mills aspect of the design. Crowder adds the third element, executing the shallow crossing route from left to right:WashingtonPreviewStill8

This sets up a high-low between the post and the dig ‒ Jackson and Reed ‒ as well as between the dig and the shallow ‒ Reed and Crowder. Cousins can read from high to low, working from post, to dig, to shallow crosser in order.

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Buffalo drops into Cover 1 at the snap, giving the receivers man coverage to work against. Jackson uses the dino stem on his route, angling outside to the corner before breaking back to the inside. He and Cousins look to make the same, slight adjustment on the play, as the throw keeps Jackson on the vertical and away from the free safety. It pays off in a big way, resulting in a nice gain for Washington.

Here is an example from the Oregon Ducks from 2014. Marcus Mariota (#8) is in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field in dual slot formations. The Washington Huskies have a 3-3-5 nickel defense in the game that shows Cover 2 in the secondary:MariotaPlayTwoStillOne

The Ducks run a mirrored passing play, with a dig / curl combination to each side of the field. The outside receivers run deep dig routes while the inside receivers run short curls, creating high/low reads to Mariota’s left and right.

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The Huskies flash Cover 2 at the snap but the cornerbacks bail and roll into Cover 4. Mariota initially reads this play to the short side, but the inside quarter safety on that side squats on the dig route, forcing Mariota to survey the opposite side of the field. The quarterback comes to the dig route on the back-side, makes a strong throw, and the offense moves the chains. This is how the Ducks use mirrored passing plays, with the QB looking first to the short side of the field when the coverage is balanced ‒ as it is in Cover 4.

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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

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Video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass and Draft Breakdown.

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