The Stick Route: A Tight End’s Best Friend

By FirstDown PlayBook on Jun 29, 2021

We posted this blog a good while ago and it has always been pretty popular. I decided to dress it up a little and release it again for all by brethren Tight End coaches out there.

I coached a lot of different positions over my three to four decades but the Tight Ends were always one of my favorites. Other than the Quarterback, they were more involved in all aspects of the gameplay than anyone else on the field.

When I coached in the NFL, the tight ends I worked with had to block a three point Defensive End and catch the football. Often times a Tight End route was needed when the situation was third and four. That route was often a stick route.

I think the stick route is at the heart of what a Tight End does in the pass game. Tight Ends have to understand the importance of leverage and route running. If the player understands this it is very hard to cover him even if the defender understands what is coming.

It’s not the most flashy of routes but if you watch football on Sundays you will see future hall of fame players like Jason Witten perfect it to an art form nearly every week.

The Tight End releases and attempts to get a vertical stem at 6 yards. If it is zone coverage, he will turn or pivot away from the defender. The QB will place the ball on the shoulder away from this defender.

The Tight End may turn inside or out.  If the Tight End feels and sees that it is man coverage he will turn this into an out route and stay on the move. In the drawing below the Tight End will work off of the Sam LB.

I have included this very simple but yet effective play out of the Flank formation that allows the QB to pick a side to work. If he confirms that it is cover 3 or if the middle of the field is closed then the QB can work the Slant Flat.

However, sometimes it’s just as well to let your QB work the Stick route vs cover 3 also. This is particularly true if the QB and the Tight End have a lot of experience throwing and catching this route. I have included coaching points below.

MOF Open (Cover 2)

Read: Work the Stick-Flat Side. F-Y-H

– If the ball can go to the F then get it to him immediately but the corner should be there.

-The Y should work off of the leverage of the Sam LB. This is the primary target on this play vs cover 2. You may set on the third step of your drop to let the TE work to get open.

-The H should be stationary but should be ready to take the throw on the shoulder away from the MLB.

MOF Closed (Cover 3)

Read: Work the Slant-Flat side Z to X to H.

-If the Z gets leverage on the WLB throw him the ball. If the WLB expands throw the ball to the X.

– If the MLB takes away the slant give the ball to the H on his shoulder away from the MLB.

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