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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Throwing the Slant

After the Auburn game I remarked that I didn’t feel like Nebraska had done a good job of completing passes on slant routes. I feel like this problem has existed since 2004 when Callahan first introduced his WCO. Given these difficulties I decided to do my homework and try to learn more about throwing the slant. What I found is that this is apparently a very complicated route even to read about. I can only imagine going over all of these variables in a matter of seconds with a couple of 300-pounders after you.

First from a list of notes on the dropback passing game from Bill Walsh on the West Coast Offense site:
-Slant pass is a big chunk play.
-12 yrd split - 5 to 7 steps and break.
-Slant is best weak.
-Throwing strongside you should use dropback and weak flow.
-Throw ball to middle of receiver and above his waist - if anything slow him up to catch it.
-Receiver should always be aware of relationship between corner and safety.
-Hop inside and come under control in hole.
-Ball should be caught 1 ft. in front of receivers numbers.
-Vs corner inside - go full speed and break across his face.
-Always practice 1/2 as many throws to outlet as primary.
A big part of the slant depends upon quarterbacks attending to the “type of throw” they are making:
“Typically out routes need to be frozen ropes, whereas slants are really about timing and taking a little bit off the ball. You'll see even NFL QBs struggle with the slant because they put too much velocity on the ball (See Michael Vick).

The BEST slant throwing team of all time was the 49ers with both Montana and Steve Young. Both threw a very soft slant pass and did not lead the receivers much. Instead they put the ball right on their numbers.

Bottom line: The slant is tricky to both throw and catch; when you increase a football's velocity you make it harder to catch, because the increased velocity reduces the margin for error too much to make the pass effective.”
In addition, the placement of the ball in relation to the receiver is also crucial:
“When QBs' throw to each other they should not just "throw it to the other guy," and instead pick specific targets on the other guy's body: We say throw it at the guy's nostril, his ear, or the corner of his numbers for practice. The better the QB is at this the better he can be as a quarterback. Bill Walsh used to scream and rip Joe Montana when he failed to throw the ball to the correct corner of the receiver's jersey. That's being specific and being accurate.”
In other words, the throw for each route needs to be placed in a different spot on the receiver's body:
“For the Slant: The upper inside corner ("in the body") of his jersey vs cover 2. Vs. cover 3 we say "one-foot in front of the numbers.”
The placement issue seems to be key when you consider turnovers. Throwing the slant pass either too high or behind the receiver will create problems in that the receiver cannot protect the ball with his body as he makes the catch and the defenders will have a greater opportunity to make a play on the ball.

The pace of the slant in terms of the receiver’s route is also important:
“The slant is one of the most potent but often one of the most poorly executed routes in all of football.The biggest problem I see is that players and coaches alike need to remember to slow down. The slant is a route where everything is under control. The route is never run at full speed and the pass is very, very far from being a bullet.

The route should be run at almost no more than 3/4 speed, if not just a bit more. The receiver will explode off the ball but will handle the rest under control. The pass is a touch pass. It is thrown on a rhythm and will hit the receiver one foot in front of the numbers, but as a general rule (which helps with a variety of coverages) the ball will be thrown away from the defenders, rather than directly to the receiver, if that makes sense.”
More on the route running:
“We have our receivers begin outside foot back. It is a 3 step route for the receiver, meaning he will step outside foot big step, inside foot, and then outside foot. On this 3rd step the receiver will land with his toes pointing inwards and will pull and roll off this foot into a 45 degree angle. We like to teach a fairly skinny break on the slant (aided with our 4 yard vertical step and the fact that it is run under control). Versus cover 3 it will end up being a bit flatter to get away from the corner.”
And finally, a little on the QB’s drop:
“The QB will take a 3-step drop. Some coaches teach "3 big steps," we prefer to just have him take a normal 1 big, two small 3 step drop, and if he needs to hold at the end that is find. On the QB's first step away from the line he will be looking directly down the middle keying the safety and not giving away any clues.”
So, obviously I would like to see Nebraska hit the slant route with greater regularity. But after reading all of that it is amazing that this pass is ever completed at all.