ITP Glossary: Smoke 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.

Smoke Route

A smoke route is a quick, one-step hitch route run by a receiver. It can be used either as a sight adjustment, taking advantage of an uncovered receiver or off-man coverage, or as part of a quick screen. The receiver takes one step forward on a vertical stem, then pivots to the middle of the field and looks for the football.


Here against West Virginia, former TCU Horned Frogs players Trevone Boykin (#2) and Josh Doctson link up on a quick screen with Doctson running a smoke route:

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Boykin gets the ball out quickly, allowing Docton to make the catch and pick up a few yards after the catch.

This route exploits off man coverage, targeting an uncovered receiver. The smoke route often is a sight adjustment made by the quarterback and receiver, regardless of the play called in the huddle. When the signal-caller notices the defensive alignment he alerts the receiver and changes the play call.

Here, Carson Wentz (#11) and the North Dakota State Bison use the smoke route against Illinois State in the 2015 FCS Championship Game:

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Prior to the snap the cornerback gives Carey Woods (#83) nearly nine yards of cushion in this Cover 6 look. Seeing this, Wentz simply takes the snap from under center and slings the ball outside to Woods, who runs the smoke route. The receiver hauls in the quick toss and is able to put a move on the cornerback, picking up a first down for the Bison.

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

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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