In today's World of multiple defenses,
getting the right play called at the proper time is becoming harder
and harder. The answer to this problem has come down to a couple
of potential solutions. One is the audible, which everybody uses.
The problem with this is that a defense can audible when you audible,
or they can simply change their defensive coverage on the snap of
the ball. The other answer is to call universal routes that can
adapt to any coverage with a few basic and simple reads.
One of these routes is the smash route. The smash route is basically
a two-man route. It consists of the outside offensive player running
a 5-to 6-yard hitch route and the inside offensive player running
an eight step or 12 yard smash route. We call this a smash route
because the route, will be read at the break point. (See
The smash route is a versatile route good vs. all coverages. The
inside receiver is the one who does the reading. Versus zone coverage,
he reads the corners depth. There are other variables of the defense
that can be read also, but by reading the corner, this is the simplest
way and it eliminates complicating the procedure.
Coverages basically fall into 3 families, Cover 3, Cover 2, and
Man Coverage. Versus Cover 3 the outside receiver will run a 5-to
6-yard hitch route. He will sit for one second then slide outside,
never getting closer than three yards from the sideline. The inside
receiver will run eight steps or 12 yards. While he is running,
he will try to avoid contact with a defender and read the depth
of the corner. If at his break point the corner is even or higher
than he is, he will turn outside and sit down approximately one
yard outside his original alignment. This will create a curl flat
concept. (See Diagram 2)
Versus cover 2 the outside receiver will run a 5-to 6-yard hitch.
He will sit for one second, then he will slide out to the sideline,
never getting closer than three yards from the sideline. The inside
receiver will run the smash. The receiver will again avoid collision
and read the depth of the corner. He must also run the stem of his
route from the alignment of the safety that is over top of him.
He must square up the safety. His angle to the corner will depend
upon the safety. He will take as much room as the safety will allow.
We tell him to stay as high as possible then react down to the ball.
(See Diagram 3)
Versus 1/4's, which is in the Cover 2 family, the outside receiver
will run a 5-to 6-yard hitch. He will sit for one second, then he
will slide out to the sideline, never getting closer than three
yards from the sideline. The inside receiver will run the smash.
The receiver will avoid collision and read the depth of the corner.
He must also run the stem of his route from the alignment of the
safety that is over the top of him. He must square up the safety.
If the corner stays high, the receiver must turn out and sit down.
It is important that the receiver keeps the safety pinned on his
hip, and does not allow him to come under him. This will create
a curl-flat concept. This is generally not a good concept against
1/4's coverage but when it is done this way it cam be effective.
(See Diagram 4)
Versus man coverage the smash route is also an effective route.
The outside receiver will run a 5-6 yard hitch if the corner is
soft. He will sit for 1 second and slide out as if it is zone coverage.
If the corner is pressed, the receiver will release inside versus
the corner and go 5-7 steps inside as if he is running a crossing
route. He will then stop and whip back outside. (See
This will allow the QB time to read the inside receiver and not
make the outside receiver a dead receiver. The inside receiver will
run a smash. He will not sit it down versus man coverage. He will
run the corner. If the defender is inside, then the receiver will
go his 8 steps of 12 yards and make his break. The angle will depend
whether the defender is on his hip low or his shoulder high. If
the defender is low on the receiver's hip, then the angle will be
high. If the defender is high on the receiver's shoulder, then the
angle will be flatter. (See Diagram 6)
If the defender plays outside leverage man, then the receiver must
react differently. The receiver should try an outside release, but
if he cannot, then he must release vertically and try to outrun
the defender. As he goes vertical, he should try and cut the defender
off and get on top of the defender. If the defender is on the low
hip then the angle of the route will be high. (See
If the defender is high on the receiver's outside shoulder then
the receiver should swim under and flatten the route. (See
Splits and Alignments
If the ball is on the hash and the receivers are to the short side
of the field, alignment of the outside receiver is 5 yards from
the sideline. The alignment of the inside receiver is then determined
by splitting the difference between the outside receiver and the
offensive tackle. (See Diagram 9)
If the ball is in the middle of the field, then the outside receiver
should be at the bottom of the numbers. The inside receiver should
split the difference between the outside receiver and the tackle.
(See Diagram 10)
If the ball is on the hash, and the receivers are to the field,
then the outside receiver should be 8 yards outside the hash. The
inside receiver should be on the hash. (See Diagram
Note: The outside receiver should be off the ball and the inside
receiver should be on the ball.
The QB Steps and Reads
The QB will take a 5-step drop from underneath the center. If he
is in the shotgun formation, he will take a 3-step drop. This will
also include a hitch at the end of the drop.
The QB must recognize the coverage. His biggest distinction must
be to determine whether it is zone or man coverage. Then his next
distinction is to determine whether it is a soft corner or hard
If it is a soft corner coverage such as cover 3 or cover 4 (1/4's),
then the QB will keep his eyes inside to hold the curl-flat defender
inside so that he can throw the hitch route. This will also allow
him to see if the curl-flat defender runs to the hitch and in turn
allows him to throw the sit down read of the smash quicker.
If the coverage is a hard corner coverage such as coverage 2, the
QB will hold the safety on the hash with his eyes and read the corner.
We tell him to hold the safety so the smash has as much room as
possible. When the QB is reading the corner, he must read the depth
of the corner and his shoulder angle. Obviously, if the corner sinks
deep, he should throw the hitch, and if the corner sits short then
the QB must throw the smash. The problem occurs when the corner
is in-between. This is where the shoulder angle becomes very important.
If the corner's shoulders are square and facing forward toward the
hitch, then it is ok to throw the smash over his head. If his shoulders
are facing towards the QB and he can see both receivers, he is baiting
the QB into throwing the smash. The QB should keep his eyes high
and throw the hitch.
If it is man coverage then the QB should think heavy on the smash,
but you still must read the route. If the defense is playing loose
man coverage and the corner stays deep, then the QB should throw
the hitch. If it is press man, then the QB will look to the smash,
and if he feels he can hit the smash then he should throw the smash.
If the receiver is jammed up or not open, then the QB can come back
to the whip route that the outside receiver runs versus press coverage.
Ball Placement By The QB
This is often an under coached part of the play. The placement
of the ball is the key to YACC yards (yards after catch). When the
QB is throwing the hitch, he should place the ball in the middle
of the receiver's numbers to the outside armpit. This will allow
the receiver to spin outside versus a soft corner coverage. You
want to do this because the defender closest to you should be the
curl-flat defender coming inside out. This will also avoid a high
collision at the time of the reception, which could cause an interception
When the QB is facing a 2 deep or hard corner coverage, the corner
is often the closest defender. The ball then should be in the middle
of the receiver's numbers to the inside armpit. I know you are thinking
that he should throw the smash, but I am talking about the corner
sinking slightly and turning his shoulders to bait the QB into throwing
the smash. The QB should throw the ball to the inside armpit because
the curl defender will often sink with the vertical push of the
smash. The QB must judge for himself who is the closest defender
and throw the ball accordingly.
When the QB is throwing the sit down read of the smash, the ball
should be thrown to the middle of the receiver's numbers to the
outside armpit. The QB throws the ball here because the curl-flat
defender has taken the hitch, and the next defender will be an inside
out defender being either the inside linebacker of the 1/4's safety.
When the QB is throwing the corner read of the smash, versus cover
2, he must throw the ball as high as the safety will allow. The
receiver is going to stay as high as possible, and the QB should
throw the ball to the up field arm of the receiver. Never miss short
or inside; this will result in an interception. If the QB misses,
he should always miss long and outside. The QB should put touch
on the ball but never hang it up for a jump ball. It should be a
Versus man coverage, it depends on where the defender is. If he
is on the low hip, then the ball should be thrown up to the up field
shoulder of the receiver. If the defender is on the up field shoulder,
then the ball will be thrown harder and flatter to the outside,
but still should be thrown to the up field shoulder.
In conclusion, the smash route is an easy concept to learn. It
is a very universal route that adapts to all situations. It is easy
to read for the QB and gives the QB an easy throw if things do not
look right. There are other variations of the route when a #3 receiver
is added, but the outside two receivers are the important ones.
Maybe the most important thing to remember about the smash is to
be patient and content with throwing the hitch, do not force the