Strategy Session: Cross the Deep Crossing Route off FSU's List

I'm always on the lookout for articles about football strategy or concepts that fit into FSU's general scheme.  Part of knowing who you are, however, is knowing who you are not.  Today, we'll discuss a concept we shouldn't often run run-- the deep crossing route


The Cardinals shocked the world and defeated the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago.  Many of our members were intrigued by a screen play 'Zona dialed up, but it was another play that caught the eye of Chris at (probably our favorite strategy blog, and easily the best at discussing passing concepts). 

Chris really liked the way Arizona ran the Deep Crossing Route.  His article appears here.  Read that article and then come back here. 

Let's start with The Route

There are a few problems I see here.  First, this route requires a lot of practice.  College teams don't get anywhere near the practice time that pro squads have.  Second, against zone or combo coverage, this route requires both the receiver and the quarterback to make complex multi-level reads.  These reads are further complicated because the deep cross is a bit of a slow developing route, so the QB must be able to trust his protection so that he can be 100% focused on the reads (This is true of any passing play, but most QB's will tell you that some routes are easier to read while distracted). 

The second reason this play isn't feasible as a staple of our offense is that it is unnecessary.  As Chris says, the route is great because it is very versatile, which is needed in the NFL because NFL teams play crazy coverages-- "to the extent that good coordinators often can't identify the coverage even after the play is over."  In the college game, offense is more about getting your guys into situations to win one-on-one matchups; not to completely have a guy wide open against a defense.  In the same vein, college defenses do not play unidentifiable coverages.  They generally play cover 1, cover 3 (Bama), or some form of cover 2 (Miami).  You'll see the occasional quarters.  Few zone blitz well and nobody has enough practice time to come close to approximating even the simplest of NFL defensive schemes (though some would argue Saban).  We don't really need to run this route.  Why waste a ton of time on something you don't need.


Using the route to satisfy our need for a vertical stretch. 

Vertical Stretch

I love comparing our offense to the Colts offense.  We can run a ton of Smash and Levels (and I will discuss how we can do these in the coming weeks).  In Chris' article, however, he shows the Colts running stretch action.  For us, I would prefer that we not run the stretch action and then drop off of it.  Instead, I think we should restrict our use of this route to something we do fairly well and should do amazingly well next year:  the bootleg.  Ponder's wheels make this a deadly play for us and in running this route with the boot action, Ponder gets an easier, half-field read outside of the hash.  03

Sima fakes the stretch action to Pittman to the left then bootlegs out to the right to see Clayton running the deep cross. The deep safety on the far hash must respect the run and Clayton should cross his face with ease.  The near safety must respect Williams, so the window to throw this ball to Clayton is pretty significant.  One of the backers must respect the TE/HB Becht so he won't be dropping deep.  (Analysis assumes cover 2 or cover 3).  Using this route with boot action helps to take away some of the more difficult requirements of such a versatile but seemingly simple route. 

Chris talk about Bill Walsh and The AirRaid.  I'm not aware of those two systems shaping Jimbo's offensive philosophy, so I don't care to discuss that too much.

Photo Credit:  Chris of

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