A quarterback’s best friend against the zone defense is be a receiver who understands how to just adjust their roots to find seams or soft
spots. That’s why it’s important when your do your route running drills, you set up a game situation – a cover 2, cover 3, any kind of coverage.
There are certain route combinations that, when run properly, can be very tough for the defense to cover. Against the cover 3, I like to run the hook and flat, and against the cover 2, I prefer a slant and hitch combo.
In the cover 3 zone, with the middle of the field, the deep ball, and the flats pretty well covered, there are soft spots along the sideline at around 8-10 yards.
By running a hook on the outside with a slant coming underneath towards the sideline, you are isolating the safety, and forcing him to come up and bite on the hook, leaving the slant uncovered, or sitting back and allowing the completion underneath.
To practice this, set up a series of garbage cans and pylons in the positions the defenders would be standing. Then have your receivers line up on one side of the field, and have two quarterbacks line up under center.
Designate which quarterback is throwing to which receiver, and then have them drop back and each hit their men in stride.
Here we’ll put the receivers on opposite sides of the field. On the one side, the receiver will run a slant, going about 5 yards and cutting up the field diagonally, dragging the safety deep. The other receiver will be running a hitch, curling in just underneath the deep zone of the same safety, and between the seam of the two middle linebacker zones.
This is an awesome way to practice timing and route running, two of the finer aspects of the passing game, that are going to help you bring your percentage way up, and your interceptions way down.
If you have any other route combinations you like to run, make sure to get your quarterbacks and receivers out there working on timing together on those as well! Practice makes perfect!
If you haven’t had a chance to work on reading coverages with your quarterbacks and receivers yet, make sure you check out this point on reading the defense presnap!