Protect Your Empty Pass Game With Crossing Routes
By FirstDown PlayBook on Nov 22, 2013

Anytime you draw up a pass play out of an Empty formation you have to have your offensive line coach in the meeting because as great as it is to get five receivers out on the snap of the ball the protection can be fragile. This is not to say that Empty protection is bad. In fact if your Center and QB understand it  then Empty protection can be as solid as anything in your playbook.

If the defense shows you a two deep shell then the odds are that you are in good shape. The Center or QB need to point out the Linebacker who the offensive line will block vs a 4-3 or the two Linebackers vs a 3-4.  If the defense stays in the two high shell then you should be protected. If they roll the coverage to one side or the other then that slot receiver and the QB must be ready to execute a hot throw. We will detail the protection for this play later in the month on the NFL’s High School Player Development website PlayBook - EMPTY 092 F CROSS H SHOOTThis play is an example of how you can protect your empty pass game with crossing routes. These crossing routes provide rubs vs man coverage. They also provide more than one option vs a zone pressure if the defense is dropping a lineman into the underneath coverage. Most importantly they give the QB quick options if he needs them.

The QB should take a 5 step drop. He will read this H-F-X vs all coverages. The QB should have a great pre-snap read on the coverage to consider the H. If he sees that the coverage is two deep the QB should only consider throwing to the H if the H releases outside of the cloud corner to that side. This will give him room to make the throw on the sideline before the Safety can get over there. If the H is not an option the QB should get back down to the high low with the F and X. They should sit in the first hole they find in the zone after crossing the Mike Linebacker.

The same read should stay on vs middle of the field closed zone although this coverage is unlikely unless the defense is bringing zone pressure. If the QB is faced with a pressure that makes him hot he should look to throw to the Z or the X in the spot where the hot defender comes from. If it is zone pressure the drop end or interior lineman will likely drop away from the pressure side. As mentioned before, if it is man coverage the X should provide a natural rub for the Z as the cross paths over the ball. Of course there is always the possibility of 2 man coverage. A lot of the same options remain with the underneath crossing routes and if your QB is mobile enough this can often lead to big plays if he tucks the ball and runs.

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