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Back Shoulder Throws: Timing and Accuracy

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Back Shoulder Throws: Timing and Accuracy

In football, the back shoulder throw is a lethal weapon for quarterbacks and receivers looking to torch tight coverage. By leveraging precision, timing, and mutual trust, this technique becomes nearly indefensible. Let's dive into the nuts and bolts of executing the perfect back shoulder throw and when to deploy this game-changing tactic.

What is a Back Shoulder Throw?

A back shoulder throw is a pass aimed intentionally behind the receiver, towards the sideline but on the receiver's back shoulder, away from the defender’s grasp. This throw exploits the natural positioning of the defensive back, giving the receiver an opportunity to adjust and make a secure catch.

Why Use Back Shoulder Throws?

  • Beating Tight Coverage: Allows the receiver to shield the ball and prevent interceptions.
  • Utilizing Chemistry: Requires impeccable timing and trust between the QB and the receiver.
  • Enhancing Route Diversity: Adds a layer of unpredictability in the passing game.

The Technique

Here's a deep dive into the mechanics and nuances of executing a back shoulder throw:

Quarterback Tips

  1. Reading the Coverage: Identify single-man coverage or tight zones, making a quick decision.
  2. Ball Placement: Aim lower towards the back hip or shoulder to force the receiver to adjust.
  3. Throw with Anticipation: Release the ball before the receiver makes their cut.
  4. Spin and Velocity: A controlled yet firm spiral helps maintain accuracy.

Receiver Tips

  1. Body Adjustment: Shield the ball from the defender using the body and show late hands.
  2. Eyes on the QB: Constantly read the quarterback's cues to anticipate the throw.
  3. Route Running: Precision in route depth and speed is crucial.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown in a tabular format for quick recall:

StepQuarterback FocusReceiver Focus
Pre-Snap ReadIdentify single coverage or zone axleScan for defender alignment
ReleaseThrow with anticipation, not accuracyStart route with precise cut and speed
Ball PlacementTarget lower back shoulder/hip zoneAdjust body, show late hands
Follow-ThroughMaintain control on velocity and spinSecure the catch, protect the ball
Post-Catch AdjustmentStay aware for potential scrambleGain YAC (Yards After Catch) if possible

Timing is Everything

Anticipation over Reaction: Quarterbacks must throw with trust, relying on pre-snap reads and anticipation. Reactions are too slow for the rapid game-play dynamics.

Mutual Understanding: Repetitive practice builds the instinctual trust needed for seamless execution. The QB should know exactly when the WR will make the turn.

Drills for Practice

  1. Route-Cut Drills: Simulate real-game scenarios; perfect the speed and depth of cuts.
  2. Blindfolded Throws: Enhance muscle memory and trust without watching the WR.
  3. One-on-One Scrimmages: Real-time practice against life-like defensive setups.

When to Use Back Shoulder Throws

  • Sideline Routes: Maximize sideline advantage when space is limited.
  • End Zone Situations: Utilize the back shoulder throw to create mismatches in red-zone.
  • Third Downs & Crucial Plays: Employ when coverage is airtight and the stakes are high.


Mastering the back shoulder throw requires a blend of precision, trust, and relentless practice. As you incorporate this technique, remember it’s the unspoken chemistry between quarterback and receiver, honed over countless hours, that transforms this play into a virtually unstoppable offensive weapon.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on perfecting your game!